ST. GEORGE – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service notified the public on Tuesday, July 31, of final changes to a special rule for the Utah prairie dog governing take for the species. The amendment to the existing special rule establishes clarifications for direct take of prairie dogs including:
- Where permitted take can occur.
- The amount of take that can be permitted.
- What methods of take that can be permitted.
The changes also include new incidental take exemptions for standard agricultural practices and allow for control of Utah prairie dogs in areas where they:
- Create serious human safety hazards.
- Disturb the sanctity of significant human cultural or human burial sites.
All other provisions of the special rule not relating to these amendments remain unchanged.
Annual take of Utah prairie dogs is typically between June 1 and Dec. 31, however, the revised rule allows for no timing restrictions where the animals cause significant hazards to human safety, or disturb burial sites or other areas of cultural importance.
Annual take of the Utah prairie dog is 6,000 per year, yet cannot exceed between 7 and 10 percent of the annual range-wide species population. However, this limitation also does not apply to areas where the animals can cause safety hazards or disturb protected sites.
Means of take will be determined by the entity which holds jurisdiction over the land where the prairie dogs are found. However, means of take must conform to Utah Code.
“The changes we announced today are designed to achieve recovery of the Utah prairie dog by broadening support for our recovery efforts by private landowners and other recovery collaborators,” said Stephen Guertin, regional director of the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region. “Local communities will benefit from the ability to control prairie dogs in areas where human safety or the sanctity of human cultural or burial sites is a concern.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch expressed his approval for the revised rule, as it was a step in protecting private property rights.
“This is an important first step in the larger effort to ensure the rights of property owners are protected from federal overreach,” Hatch said. “It’s taken a lot of work, but hopefully this ruling provides a solution to the growing threat of Utah prairie dogs. Prairie dogs have been digging up the graves of loved ones and burrowing into airport runways. This rule gives Utahns more power over our lands, and will go a long way towards addressing this serious public safety threat.”
Under the revised special rule, most take will continue to be permitted by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resource. The UDWR has exercised caution to ensure any permitted take is consistent with the species’ recovery needs. However, it is anticipated that other partners could become permitting entities in the future.
The revised rule can be found here.
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