The plan was developed by the Missouri Department of Conservation with help from conservation partners, resource agencies, landowners and local communities.
The strategy is simple. Focus resources in the few remaining locations in the state with the right type of habitat for prairie chickens. Greater prairie chickens require large expanses of open, diverse grassland with very few trees on the landscape. In recent years, most of this habitat type has declined or disappeared completely because of urbanization, changes in agriculture practices, improper grassland management and woody encroachment. Today the Department estimates there are fewer than 500 prairie chickens scattered in small flocks in southwest, west-central and northwest Missouri. The greater prairie chicken recovery plan is a strong conservation effort that will benefit not only greater prairie chickens, but also other grassland wildlife that have declined significantly over the past couple decades. The plan focuses on improving open grassland habitat on public and private land within select areas, better known as grassland focus areas. The goal is to protect and restore tallgrass prairie, control invasive plants, cut down trees and hedgerows to expand open vistas, and improve grassland management practices on pasture and hay land.
The combination of better grassland management, prairie restoration and tree removal will definitely improve habitat conditions for greater prairie chickens and other grassland birds. Wildlife-friendly practices that will benefit prairie chickens will also benefit bobwhite quail and cottontail rabbits. Better grassland management and prairie restoration will provide better nesting habitat. Prairie restoration and pasture conversion to native grasses and legumes will provide greater plant diversity that will produce additional food and cover for grassland wildlife. Grasslands recently disturbed by prescribed fire or proper grazing will create ideal brooding cover by providing adequate overhead cover and easy movement for young quail and prairie chickens. Both nesting and brooding cover are two of the three important habitat components needed to support bobwhite quail. The third, woody escape cover, will be created when trees and hedgerows are cut and dropped (basically edge feathering).
The work done for the greater prairie chicken will result in some pretty good bobwhite quail and rabbit habitat. What’s good for prairie chickens is generally good for quail.