Partnership to Address Prairie Dog Management
WASHINGTON - Local partnership efforts are underway to better address land management concerns associated with the impacts of prairie dogs, including development of a Prairie Dog Habitat Review Committee and Prairie Dog Focus Group.
The U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, South Dakota Department of Agriculture and South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks are behind the effort to investigate how drought, livestock grazing and prairie dogs are affecting rangeland vegetation within the Nebraska National Forest. In an agreement signed April 28, 2006, the Prairie Dog Habitat Review Committee is charged with assessing whether rangeland conditions are consistent with the Forest Plan, or if additional management actions are necessary to improve the condition of the land. Participants say they hope to complete the work this summer.
For ranchers in South Dakota and Nebraska, this is welcome news. Prairie dogs are a tremendous concern on both public and private lands. In October 2005, rancher-members of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and Public Lands Council (PLC) convened meetings in South Dakota with national and regional officials to seek assistance for ranchers and landowners in dealing with prairie dog populations on rangeland.
“This effort could serve as an important model for species management,” said Jeff Eisenberg, PLC executive director and NCBA director of federal lands. “Previous efforts to control prairie dogs have been ineffective. This effort represents a move by government to more closely consider the balance of resource needs by all parties.”
As part of this effort, a focus group is being formed consisting of four ranchers, four conservationists and four local county commissioners. The focus group will serve as an information conduit between the committee and their constituent groups and offer science-related questions and information to help guide the work of the committee.
Myron Williams, a rancher and PLC member from Wall, S.D., who will serve on the focus group, said, “This is a good effort being made to find a workable solution that can be implemented by the Forest Service and other agencies. This group will address a long-term resource conflict, but we want to work toward bringing everyone’s efforts to a positive conclusion.”
NCBA and PLC commend the cooperative action taken by agencies, and are hopeful that the recommendations by the Prairie Dog Habitat Review Committee be taken seriously and put into effect in the agencies’ management practices.