Thursday, June 07, 2007

Prairie Dogs, Ferrets, and Poison, Oh My!

On our recent trip, one of the animals Sprout and Bird found most captivating was the prairie dog. We spent so much time parked near the edge of their "towns" in the Badlands and Custer State Park, watching their antics. Beo told stories about being in the backcountry of the Badlands the year that Black-footed ferrets were reintroduced to the area. Now more than 200 of these endangered creatures live in and around these same prairie dog towns. It's a success story in the endangered species world. Now the ferrets are threatened again, as cattle ranchers push the Forest Service to expand their prairie dog poisoning programs deeper into federal lands--into the heart of where the ferrets can potentially thrive.

I hope my readers know that I am no (stereotypical) garden-variety tree hugger. I understand the importance of cattle grazing (especially in the face of CAFO expansion) and the need to remove prairie dogs from private lands. Federal lands however, are there for a reason. These areas already permit grazing. In my mind, ranch owners should be able to use the land within its ecological limits, but not dictate how the federal government controls the land. The Forest Service is in part responsible for keeping these ecosystems balanced and preserved. Moving the poisoning program into an area where an endangered species is getting a foothold is foolhardy at best. Our world is under threat from all sides. This is one area where we've done the right thing and tried to set up an ecosystem that belongs. Let's not let business interests throw that away. Please, take the time to read this article, and follow the instructions for contacting the Forest Service to share your thoughts about the plan. My letter is ready to get dropped in the mail.

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