SALT LAKE CITY — If you own land where Utah prairie dogs live in southwestern Utah, action taken on March 5 might affect you.
That day, members of the Utah Wildlife Board approved the Utah Prairie Dog Management Plan for Non-federal Lands.
The plan makes it easier to remove prairie dogs from private property and place those prairie dogs on public land. Placing the prairie dogs on public land should speed their recovery and give them a better chance of being removed from the federal Endangered Species list.
You can review a draft copy of the plan, which is now final, online.
Found only in southwestern Utah, Utah prairie dogs were placed on the federal Endangered Species list in 1973. Until late 2014, all Utah prairie dogs in the state were managed by the federal government. Then, last November, a ruling in federal court returned management authority — for Utah prairie dogs that are not found on federal land — back to the state of Utah.
Kevin Bunnell, regional supervisor for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), says the plan removes federal restrictions that have created difficulties for those living in residential areas. "Through the plan," he says, "we're hoping to give private landowners some relief while still allowing Utah prairie dogs to recover. In fact, we think the plan will speed the recovery of the species."
In the course of compiling the plan, DWR biologists met with 20 entities. The entities included locally elected officials in southwestern Utah, federal land managers, government representatives at both the state and federal levels, and the Utah Farm Bureau, which represents thousands of landowners in the state.
Bunnell says the plan has widespread support in southern Utah. "I think the reason why is simple," he says. "We met with key stakeholders, many of whom represent those who live with prairie dogs every day. We listened to what they had to say. We did our best to address their concerns."
The following are some highlights from the plan:
- Some Utah prairie dogs live in residential areas that aren't critical to the recovery of the species. Under the new plan, it will now be easier to move prairie dogs from those areas to public land that has the habitat and the room needed for the prairie dogs to thrive.
- In the past, restrictions have been placed on private property that doesn't have prairie dogs on it but might in the future. Those restrictions have been lifted.
- Landowners who have 50 or more prairie dogs on their property can now be compensated for crop losses and damage caused by Utah prairie dogs.