CEDAR CITY – A plan for management of Utah prairie dogs located on nonfederal lands in southwestern Utah is, according to a statement issued by the state’s Division of Wildlife Resources Tuesday, ready for review after several weeks of work.
The Utah prairie dog is found only in southwestern Utah and, since 1973, has been listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. In late 2014, a ruling in federal court returned management authority over Utah prairie dogs not located on federal lands in Utah back to the state.
Since the ruling, the Division of Wildlife Resources has been working with other agencies and elected officials to draft a management plan that will ensure the future of the species while also providing some relief to private landowners.
Among those agencies, is the Interior Department, which Congressman Chris Stewart expressly thanked while addressing Interior Secretary Sally Jewell during an Appropriations Interior Subcommittee hearing Wednesday.
“… We’ve made more progress in eight months than we have in 20 years,” Stewart said to Jewell regarding the prairie dog issues, “and we hope to have a conclusion to that; and we’re grateful … for the consolidated effort that we’ve had in moving that forward.”
Stewart took the opportunity to encourage similar cooperation from the Interior Department in resolving wild horse issues in Utah.
The DWR’s announcement is welcome news to Iron County officials.
“We feel like we’re making some headway, and things are moving in the right direction,” Iron County Commissioner Dale Brinkerhoff said.
“We’re encouraged and pleased with the way things are moving forward with the resolution of the prairie dog issue,” Brinkerhoff added. “It’s gaining ground … we are encouraged.”
Brinkerhoff said if the new prairie dog plan is approved, it will improve things “appreciably” for residents of Iron County who have prairie dogs on their property.
On March 3, the DWR will present the plan to Utah’s five regional wildlife advisory councils for discussion, input and possible approval.
DWR Director Greg Sheehan said his agency has a strong history of successfully protecting and conserving sensitive wildlife species.
“We’ll continue to use our resources, and the expertise of our biologists, to manage Utah prairie dogs,” Sheehan said in the statement. “Our goal is to work cooperatively, with local officials and property owners in southern Utah, to ensure Utah prairie dogs continue to be an important part of the landscape.”
According to DWR plan documents, the goal of the Utah Prairie Dog Management plan is:
To remove restrictions from private property through a timely and structured process while assisting in the conservation of populations on designated federal and protected non-federal lands.
The population of prairie dogs in southwest Utah was estimated at 95,000 in the 1920s, according to plan documents. That figure dropped to 3,300 by 1972 but rebounded to approximately 16,000 as of 2014.
The new management plan outlines rules and regulations governing the “take” of prairie dogs on nonfederal land in Utah for reasons of safety, health, welfare, development and agricultural/rangeland conflicts.
Regional wildlife advisory council chairmen will share the input they receive with members of the Utah Wildlife Board. The board will meet in Salt Lake City on March 5 to approve the state’s Utah Prairie Dog Management Plan for Non-federal Lands.
Iron County residents will have the opportunity to comment on the plan in person at a meeting on March 3 at 6:30 p.m. at Cedar Middle School, 2215 W. Royal Hunte Drive in Cedar City.
Review and comment
- See the proposed Utah Prairie Dog Management Plan for Non-federal Lands here: DWR agenda with draft Utah Prairie Dog Management Plan for Non-federal Lands – revised 20150217
- To comment on the plan, residents can attend one of the Regional Wildlife Advisory Council meetings listed below or email committee members.
- Email addresses for Advisory Council members are available here. The group each Advisory Council member represents (sportsman, nonconsumptive, et cetera) is listed under each person’s email address. Comments should be directed to the people on the Advisory Council who represent your interest.
Regional Wildlife Advisory Council meetings
The date, time and locations for the RAC meetings are as follows:
- Northern Region – March 3, 6:30 p.m.
Brigham City Community Center
24. N. 300 West
- Central Region – March 3, 6:30 p.m.
DWR Central Region Conference Center
1115 N. Main St.
- Northeastern Region – March 3, 6:30 p.m.
DWR Northeastern Region Office
318 N. Vernal Ave.
- Southeastern Region – March 3, 6:30 p.m.
John Wesley Powell Museum
1765 E. Main St.
- Southern Region – March 3, 6:30 p.m.
Cedar City Middle School
2215 W. Royal Hunte Drive
- Court stops federal agency interference in Utah prairie dog issues on state, private lands
- Perspectives: Prairie dogs or people, who does government serve?
- Cedar Ridge Golf Course prairie dog fence project resumes, 2014
- Property owners sue federal government over prairie dogs, 2013
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.