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Group flunks states, federal agencies dealing with prairie dogs

2/7/2014

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Kansas continues to receive a failing grade in nearly all its classes, at least as far as how it deals with prairie dogs.

Of course, it's in good company, as most states and federal governments continue to do poorly in the WildEarth Guardians' annual "Report from the burrow."

It's an annual compilation of how state and federal agencies are dealing with prairie dog populations.

The report is designed to be released in concert with the observation of Groundhog Day, a day environmental groups in the western United States have tried renaming Prairie Dog Day.

Punxsutawney Phil entertains, the Denver based WildEarth Guardians said.

"However, the status of our prairie dog populations has more serious implications for the future of western grassland ecosystems," the group said.

No state yet has earned an "A" in the annual report, but Arizona continues to lead the state and federal agencies with a "B."

Colorado has moved up due to its push for plague mitigation and research, as has the Bureau of Land Management for its role in conservation projects.

The Environmental Protection Agency "would be downgraded if possible for approving the use of Kaput-D," the report states. "Because the agency was already failing, EPA gets detention for the second year in a row."

New Mexico also was given detention for "irresponsible ordinances on the city and county level, as well as a prairie dog killing contest."

WildEarth Guardians considers the report a tool for the public to hold public agencies accountable.

Kansas received mostly failing grades across the board for its actions involving prairie dogs, but it did receive a "B" for monitoring the state's population levels.

At its peak, Kansas had anywhere from 2 to 1.5 million acres of black-tailed prairie dogs. The most recent survey in 2008 put the total at 148,000 acres.

Nebraska, to the north, received an "F" for its inactions.

But many of those mirror what's in Kansas.

Neither state imposes limits on shooting prairie dogs, other than requiring non-residents to possess a license. Nebraska in 2012 passed a law giving counties the power and duty to control prairie dogs on private land, something Kansas has had for more than 100 years.