WildEarth Guardians

A Force for Nature

Select Page

Current work in wildlife, rivers, public lands, and climate

Press Releases

Gunnison’s Prairie Dogs Denied Endangered Species Act Protections

Date
November 14, 2013
Contact
Taylor Jones (505) 490-5141
In This Release
Wildlife

Thursday, November 14, 2013
Gunnison’s Prairie Dogs Denied Endangered Species Act Protections

Species Remains Unlisted Despite 95% Decline
Contact: Taylor Jones (505) 490-5141

Washington, DC – Despite a documented 95percent decline since the early 1900s, the Gunnison’s prairie dog was deniedlisting under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) today. The U.S. Fish andWildlife Service (Service) contends the remaining 5 percent is not subjected tothreats significant enough to warrant listing, despite ongoing developmentdestroying prairie dog habitat, shooting, poisoning, outbreaks of plague,drought and climate change.

“The Endangered Species Act tasks the Servicewith truly recovering species, and today the agency dodged that responsibility,”said Taylor Jones, Endangered Species Advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “Firstwolves, now Gunnison’s prairie dogs: species clinging to just five percent of theirhistoric range need the protections of the ESA.”

The Service’s decision ignores the enormousrange-wide decline in Gunnisons’ prarie dogs in the last 100 years and focusessolely on occupancy modeling showing stability in the remaining populationsover the last 3 to 6 years. The Service acknowledges ongoing impacts fromshooting, poisoning, agriculture, and development, but argues that theseimpacts are “localized” and thus not a threat to the species as a whole. Plagueis also dismissed as a threat, though an outbreak can cause 99 percentmortality or completely wipe out a population in a single season.

“It’s amazing that the Service candefinitively state that a species has declined by 95 percent, and thenimmediately turn around and claim there’s no problem,” said Jones. “Itstroubling that the day after hundreds of people gathered in Washington D.C. to celebratethe 40th anniversary of the ESA, the Service publishes a decisioncompletely contrary to the spirit of the Act.”

Prairie dogs are “keystone” species: approximately150 species benefit from prairie dogs and the habitat they create, including swift foxes, burrowing owls,ferruginous hawks, and mountain plovers. The black-footed ferret, one of themost endangered mammals in North America, preys only on prairie dogs.

Gunnison’s prairie dogs are found ingrassland habitats in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. They live at thehighest elevations of any prairie dog species, from 6,000 to 12,000 feet. TheService found Gunnison’s prairie dogs in the montane portion of their rangewarranted for listing in 2008, and placed the species on the list of candidate species.In 2010, a court remanded that decision because the Service had improperlylisted only a portion of the species, contrary to the plain language of theESA. Today’s finding completely removes the species’ candidate status.

The Endangered Species Act is a proveneffective safety net for imperiled species: more than 99 percent of plants andanimals listed under the Act persist today. Scientists estimate that at least 227species would have gone extinct if not for ESA listing.

Other Contact
“The Endangered Species Act tasks the Service with truly recovering species, and today the agency dodged that responsibility,” said Taylor Jones, Endangered Species Advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “First wolves, now Gunnison’s prairie dogs: species clinging to just five percent of their historic range need the protections of the ESA.”
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!