Saturday, February 02, 2008

Celebrate Prairie Dog Day today, a species at risk

Mexican prairie dog

TUCSON -- Prairie Dog Day, the Western counterpart to Groundhog Day, is Saturday, February 2nd, and it's catching on! In the past three years, the cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico and Boulder, Golden, and Lakewood, Colorado have all officially proclaimed February 2nd "Prairie Dog Day."

This Prairie Dog Day, WildEarth Guardians is unveiling its first annual prairie dog report card: "Report from the Burrow: Forecast of the Prairie Dog" in Denver's City Park.

The report card grades the performance of federal and state agencies responsible for ensuring prairie dogs and the wildlife that depend on them do not disappear. The grades are disappointingly low: of the federal and state agencies responsible for prairie dog management, not one received an A or a B. Sadly, the populations of all five prairie dog species have declined dramatically over the last century.

The Mexican prairie dog of northeastern Mexico and the Utah prairie dog of southwestern Utah are listed as Endangered and Threatened, respectively, under the Endangered Species Act, and both teeter on the brink of extinction. The other three species urgently require Endangered Species Act protection. In general, prairie dogs have declined by 93 percent over the past century.

Government agencies tend to alternate between actively fighting and dragging their heels on prairie dog conservation. A proposal to allow increased shooting and poisoning of prairie dogs on the Thunder Basin National Grassland, managed by the U.S. Forest Service, is a vivid example of why that agency scored an abysmal D in WildEarth Guardians' "Report from the Burrow."

Prairie Dog Day is as much about taking action on behalf of prairie dogs as it is celebrating a day dedicated to them.

- from WEG

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