Judge orders feds to revisit a non-listing decision for Gunnison’s prairie dogs
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Central Colorado residents will get an update on a locally based prairie dog management plan in Poncha Springs in early December, as the Colorado Division of Wildlife address Gunnison’s prairie dog management actions and conservation strategies for portions of Chaffee, Teller, Fremont, El Paso, Park, Custer, Huerfano and western Las Animas counties.
The meeting will take place from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Dec. 2, 2010, at the Chaffee County Fairgrounds.
“The Division of Wildlife has been inventorying Gunnison’s prairie dog colonies and establishing local management plans for more than a year now,” said CDOW biologist Ed Schmal. “This meeting is an opportunity for interested parties to get an update and provide input.”Attendees will be briefed on Gunnison’s prairie dog occupancy modeling, genetics research, local mapping efforts and plague research and prevention, he explained.
There are three kinds of prairie dogs in Colorado: black-tailed, white-tailed and Gunnison’s. Black-tailed prairie dogs are the most common and are found mainly east of the foothills. Gunnison’s and white-tailed prairie dogs are less numerous and found in mountain valleys and parks in western and central Colorado.
Prairie dogs play a key role in the environment.They provide an important food source for predators such as hawks, badgers, coyotes, and foxes. Their colonies and burrows also provide habitat for a variety of other species.
At the present time, Gunnison’s prairie dogs are not listed as threatened or endangered. However, in 2008, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that populations of the Gunnison’s prairie dog located in central and south-central Colorado and north-central New Mexico warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act but are precluded from listing by a lack of resources.
A few weeks ago, a federal judge ordered the federal agency to revisit that decision after it was challenged by WildEarth Guardians, a New Mexico-based conservation group.
Learn more about prairie dogs at the Prairie Dog Coalition website.
Schmal said the meeting is not a forum for people to simply give their opinions about prairie dogs. The half-day session is designed to inform and engage stakeholders and to continue a dialog that began over a year ago with the development of conservation strategies and needed actions.
Schmal said the DOW is taking proactive measures by working with local landowners to ensure the population of Gunnison’s prairie dogs in south-central Colorado does not drop so low that they become an endangered species. “Some of the steps we can take include reducing the risk factors that negatively impact populations and identifying conservation strategies that will maintain viable populations.”
Private landowners, conservationists, concerned citizens, and representatives of local, federal, and state agencies are invited to attend. The Chaffee County Fairgrounds are located at 10165 County Rd. 120.
Please direct questions regarding the meeting to Ed Schmal via email at email@example.com or by calling (719) 561-5309.
For more information about Gunnison’s prairie dog management in Colorado go to: http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeSpecies/GunnisonsWhitetailPrairieDogConsStrategy.htm.
Filed under: biodiversity, Colorado Division of Wildlife, endangered species, Environment, Summit County Colorado, wildlife Tagged: | Conservation and Endangered Species, endangered species, Environment, Prairie dog, Summit County Colorado, Summit County News, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Utah prairie dog, WildEarth Guardians