Prairie Dogs Contend for Spot on Threatened Species List - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

6/21/04

Prairie Dogs Contend for Spot on Threatened Species List

A group of Texas environmentalists, biologists and landowners is implementing a plan to protect the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog. They want to do so through a spirit of cooperation, rather than imposing rules and regulations on land-owners. Still though, the Black-Tailed Prairie Dogis on a waiting list to be considered for the threatened species list. That fact alone gets many hot under the collar.

Terry Trotter, a Lubbock cotton farmer says, "This right here is what happens when prairie dogs get ahold of it." while showing NewsChannel 11 the remmants of some of his cotton plants.  After cotton farming for 45 years, it's fair to say Trotter has developed a distate for the prairie dogs who eat his crops. He says, "It's sickening.  It's sickening." Terry says, on average, prairie dogs destroy about 10% of his cotton.  He recalls, "Last year, in this field behind me, there's about sixty rows they just flat cleaned out." That's why Trotter takes matters into his own hands and poisons the prairie dogs he finds on his land.

In the meantime next door to Trotter, the City of Lubbock's Land Application Site struggles to keep the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog from eating all its grass; grass the sight needs to absorb nitrates from city waste water dumped on the land. That's why both Trotter and John Hindman, the Application Site Manager, would be more than upset to see the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog become a federally protected threatened species. Hindman says, "We have to have control. If they come out and say 'They're endangered.  You can't control on this site.' then we have to shut down the farm. We have 6,000 acres the taxpayers have bought and paid for an that's how we dispose of our effluent water."

Debbie Tennyson, Manager of the South Plains Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, understands those concerns, but explains, "One of the biggest issues and why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department wants to protect the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog is because of the endangered burrowing owl that co-exists and relies on prairie dogs."

In hopes that a listing on the threatened species list won't be necessary, the Texas Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Working Group has put together a plan to increase the acreage in Texas that is a safe habitat for prairie dogs. They hope to work with farmers and ranchers to educate them and create a spirit of cooperation. To that, Trotter says, "We've got a good crop started this year, but I would like to keep it."

The Texas Black-tailed Prairie Dog Working Group says they even hope to provide financial incentives for farmers for their cooperation in protecting prairie dogs. Nowhere in their plan though will it be illegal for farmers to control their prairie dog population.

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