By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

A national initiative designed to improve lesser prairie chicken habitat includes a slice for Kansas.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service will be eligible to use $750,000 as part of an effort to improve habitat.

"Our intent," said Eric Banks, state conservationist for NRCS in Kansas, "is to target technical and financial assistance on expired CRP fields that are to be maintained in permanent cover and use them for grazing."

Many of the expired CRP acres are large fields that could be grazed but lack fencing and water sources, he said.

Farmers in 34 Kansas counties -- matching the lesser prairie chicken range -- are eligible to participate. Northwest Kansas counties eligible are: Ellis, Gove, Logan, Ness, Rush, Sherman, Thomas, Trego and Wallace. Southwest Kansas counties are Barber, Clark, Comanche, Edwards, Finney, Ford, Grant, Gray, Greeley, Hamilton, Haskell, Hodgeman, Kearny, Kiowa, Lane, Meade, Morton, Pawnee, Rush, Pratt, Scott, Seward, Stafford, Stanton, Stevens and Wichita.

Applications must be submitted by June 25.

Through this initiative, landowners could retain cover established in CRP, and NRCS would assist in the transition to managed grazing lands. Conservation practices, such as fencing, water development and others would be available for financial assistance to aid in developing and enhancing the existing cover.

In addition to Kansas, four other states -- Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas -- have significant expiring CRP acreage and have counties with populations of LEPC.