Each year Wild Earth Guardians reports on the status of Prairie Dogs. As part of this year’s “Report from the Burrow: Forecast of the Prairie Dog,” Wild Earth Guardians assessed the state of prairie dog populations by evaluating the performance of government agencies responsible for prairie dog protection.
This tool serves as a means for the public to hold state and federal government institutions accountable for the legal obligation to protect wildlife and wildlife habitat.
The Federal Aviation Administration received a failing grade. The following is the evaluation by Dr. Nicole J. Rosmarino. It cites the Longmont battle with the FAA over the prairie dogs at Vance Brand Airport. And it honors Longmont’s Ruby Bowman and her husband Chris Boardman for their efforts, however futile against the power of a federal agency, to save them.
In response to the Hudson River airplane crash in New York City, caused by a collision with migratory Canada geese (not resident wildlife), the FAA went on the offensive against prairie dogs. The agency considers prairie dog burrows, the prairie dogs themselves, and other animals – from coyotes to birds – that are attracted to prairie dog towns to be hazards. As a result of FAA’s no prairie dog edict, prairie dogs have been killed at airports in Albuquerque (NM), Santa Fe (NM), Flagstaff (AZ), Telluride (CO), Longmont (CO), and likely many other locations. In one instance in August 2010, a large thriving Gunnison’s prairie dog colony was destroyed at FAA’s command at the Sunport Airport in Albuquerque, and Wildlife Services … poisoned some 14,000 burrows. This was despite the hard work for many years by prairie dog relocators Prairie Dog Pals, Prairie Ecosystems Associates, Ruby Bowman, and Christopher Boardman to regularly assist in airport management by moving prairie dogs to safe locations. The city of Longmont also worked very hard to implement non-lethal control, only to see their efforts overturned by the FAA requirements.
Free Range Longmont and others in our community extend a heartfelt thank you to Ruby and Chris for their tireless efforts on behalf of prairie dogs and congratulate you for your mention in this critical report.
The black-tailed prairie dog is an ecological keystone species that deserves federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Several actions should be taken by federal agencies to preserve prairie dogs and their habitat, among which are:
• Granting prompt, range-wide protection of all unlisted species of prairie dogs—the
black-tailed, white-tailed, and Gunnison’s—under the Endangered Species Act;
• Banning poisoning and shooting of any prairie dogs, especially on public lands;
• Immediately banning Rozol and Kaput-D prairie dog toxicants;
• Supporting active efforts to prevent plague outbreaks;
• Prohibiting destruction of prairie dog habitat on public lands from oil and gas
drilling, off-road vehicles, and other harmful land uses;
• Eliminating subsidies that contribute to habitat destruction and prairie dog killing;