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Prairie Dog Suit Filed
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Prairie Dog Suit Filed
Petition to list the black-tailed prairie dog under the Endangered Species Act ignored
Contact: Melanie Dabovich Albuquerque Journal
A Western conservation group has filed suit in federal court in Washington, D.C., to force Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to respond to an August 2007 petition to list the black-tailed prairie dog under the Endangered Species Act.
The lawsuit filed by WildEarth Guardians on March 13 claims the department has failed to meet a 90-day finding deadline required under the ESA.
The suit also claims that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, overseen by the Interior Department, ignored scientific evidence supporting the need for federal protection for the species and overturned earlier findings due to political pressure.
In the complaint, the group claims that from 2000 to 2004, the black-tailed prairie dog was listed as a candidate for endangered protection but was removed after a Fish and Wildlife survey of seven complexes, or groups of prairie dog colonies, determined the future of the species was secure.
Nicole Rosmarino, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians in Santa Fe, said the species has faced new threats since the 2004 removal decision including widespread poisoning, shooting and other removal methods by government agencies as well as populations decimated from nonnative disease.
The group is filing suit after six months of waiting for a finding in hopes of getting results for what Rosmarino calls a “species on the brink.”
“(The removal decision) was an irrational and baseless decision that had nothing to do with science but it had everything to do with politics. The Bush administration is beholden to livestock ranchers and developers,” Rosmarino said. “We filed this lawsuit to force FWS to comply with the law. Without immediate intervention, the species will suffer ecological extinction.”
U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman Chris Tollessen said Wednesday he cannot comment since he has not seen the lawsuit.
The group filed a formal notice letter with intent to sue to force a ruling in early 2008 and Fish and Wildlife promised to make a 90-day filing by September 2008. But Rosmarino said the group does not trust the department’s promise.
“The only way to get a finding anymore is to go to court. They promise findings all the time and they’re late,” she said.
WildEarth Guardians, along with other conservation groups, previously filed lawsuits against the Interior Department concerning endangered species consideration for the Gunnison’s and white-tailed prairie dog species.
The black-tailed prairie dog is found in 10 states, including New Mexico, and in Mexico. The animal has been killed off in Arizona. Its habitat at one time had covered 100 million acres.
Albuquerque Journal – reprinted with permission