Black-tailed Prairie Dogs Denied Protection

Federal officials have denied protection under the Endangered Species Act to black-tailed prairie dogs  last week after they determined that populations are rebounding.

In the 1900s, prairie dog populations numbered around one billion.  But their numbers had decreased dramatically to around 20 million as a result of habitat destruction, poisoning or shooting by farmers,  and the sylvatic plague.

Prairie dogs are considered a keystone species because they play an integral role in promoting animal and plant diversity in the Great Plains.  Their grazing and burrowing activity promotes a fertile environment for a variety of vegetation, which in turn attracts a multitude of herbivores like pronghorns, bison, and rabbits. Their burrows sometimes become homes for rabbits, salamanders, snakes, and burrowing owls. Finally, prairie dogs provide an ample food source for golden eagles, hawks, swift foxes, coyotes, badgers, and endangered black-footed ferrets.

For this reason, environmental activists are concerned about the lack of protection for the black-tailed prairie dog.

For more information about the new ruling, see the NY Times.

To learn more about the black-tailed prairie dog, see Animal Fact Guide’s article: Black-tailed Prairie Dog.

President Obama Restores Clout to Government Scientists Regarding Endangered Species

President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken SalazarIn his last days in office, former President Bush set forth a ruling that allowed federal agencies to bypass government scientists when launching new projects that could affect endangered species. In that way, the well-being of endangered animals was devalued.

But on Tuesday, President Obama reversed the ruling and restored the requirement to consult government scientists before going forward with new projects.

According to President Obama, “The work of scientists and experts in my administration, including right here in the Interior Department, will be respected. For more than three decades, the Endangered Species Act has successfully protected our nation’s most threatened wildlife, and we should be looking for ways to improve it, not weaken it.”

For more information: CNN.com.