Groups sue Interior Department over prairie dogs

New Mexico Business Weekly

February 7, 2007

A coalition of groups has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Interior for failing to list the black-tailed prairie dog as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Forest Guardians (which has offices in Santa Fe and Denver), the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Center for Native Ecosystems and Rocky Mountain Animal Defense filed suit in federal court in Denver challenging a 2004 decision by the Secretary of Interior that the species was not eligible for listing. This reversed a decision in 2000 where the secretary declared the black-tailed prairie dog warranted listing as a threatened species.

Black-tailed prairie dog populations have declined by about 98 percent over the last century, the groups state, and current populations are fragmented and isolated from Canada to northern Mexico.

Not granting Endangered Species Act protection puts other wildlife in peril, the suit claims. Many animals eat prairie dogs and others use prairie dog burrows for shelter, nesting and breeding. They charge the Department of Interior is succumbing to pressure from land developers and the livestock industry.

In the past, Albuquerque and Santa Fe have declared Groundhog Day as Prairie Dog Day, with events promoting education about prairie dogs.

In other parts of the West, however, there have been mass eradication programs once the animal's endangered status was no longer under consideration, the plaintiffs in the suit state.

End of Article.

(Note from researcher Julie Smithson: There is no mention of the plague, which roars through prairie dog populations -- and is deadly to humans, too -- when the animals become too populous. The 'mass eradication programs' have taken place when prairie dogs have become infected with plague.)



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