11 States Approve
Prairie Dog Proposal
Developing the management structure to hopefully keep the black-tailed prairie dog from being listed as a threatened species reached another stage with the Interstate Conservation Team approving a draft proposal to manage the species at its March meeting. When approved, the proposal will establish the framework all 11states in the historic black-tailed prairie range will follow in crafting their individual state management plans.

Bob Luce, the interstate prairie dog coordinator, says that the states have through May 5 to finish commenting on the proposal. Following that it will be submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their review and listing in the Federal Register.

"I think the states have crafted a reasonable, fair, middle-of-the-road approach to black-tailed prairie dog management that addresses the needs and concerns of everyone from private landowners to conservation interests," Luce said. "But we want everyone to have an opportunity to help us clarify or improve our approach where needed."

A public comment period will follow listing in the public register, but it is uncertain when that will occur. The G&F will publicize the period when it's announced.

In 1998, the Fish and Wildlife Service was petitioned by a private organization to have the black-tailed prairie dog listed as a threatened species. In response, the states in the species' range joined together and formed the Interstate Conservation Team to develop collective strategy and agency/citizen working groups to craft management plans for individual states.

The working groups are represented by agriculture, conservation groups, universities and energy interests. Particularly significant, Luce says, is the strong participation of state agriculture departments since the species was
legally considered a pest in almost all states in 1998, and still is in most cases.

Luce, who is on sabbatical from his position as the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's nongame mammal biologist, reports the recently drafted proposal assumes that carefully managed prairie dog control programs will continue to be a very significant and necessary part of prairie dog management.

"State wildlife agencies are also considering ways in which they can manage recreational shooting to limit take by shooters if populations fall below the acreage objective set in their individual management plans," he said. Those limits could include seasons or closures. Colorado and South Dakota have already implemented restrictions on prairie dog shooting.

"It is important to remember that if the states cannot adopt a range-wide strategy and individually develop management plans that contribute to range-wide conservation of the species, federal listing under the Endangered Species Act is a very real possibility," Luce said. "That makes it crucial that varying interests come together on the issue to avoid the more restrictive requirement that would be imposed if the species is listed as threatened under the ESA."

The Great Plains states participating in the interstate team and writing management plans are Montana, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

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