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Group assigns failing grades to wildlife agencies

Published on -2/17/2012, 11:22 AM

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By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Prairie dog conservation over the past year has gone "fairly well to horribly," declares a new WildEarth Guardians "Report from the Burrow."

Crafted to coincide with what has been dubbed Prairie Dog Day, the American West's version of Groundhog Day, the annual report takes a state-by-state and federal agency look at prairie dog conservation.

Coincidentally, Logan County's tongue-in-cheek prairie dog version of Punxsutawney Phil saw its shadow on Feb. 2 on the courthouse steps in Oakley.

"He did see his shadow," said a courthouse employee who wanted to remain unnamed, and "we all did too."

The WildEarth review includes a look at Kansas, which received a D-minus -- down a notch from the 2010 assessment by the Denver-based environmental group.

Only Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota fared more poorly than Kansas. Wyoming and New Mexico received similar grades.

Even the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received a better grade, but only slightly, receiving a D-plus. The Environmental Protection Agency received the lowest grade possible,

Kansas received a failing grade across the board, save for two topics, plague and monitoring of prairie dog populations. A year earlier, Kansas received passing grades on three categories, one of which was conservation.

In its narrative about Kansas, WildEarth Guardians reiterated the loss of prairie dogs, noting the state historically had up to 2.5 million acres.

A survey in 2008 found just 148,000 acres.

WildEarth also detailed the battle over prairie dogs in Logan County, citing a case now on appeal to the Kansas Court of Appeals. In that case, Logan County has asked permission to resume poisoning prairie dogs on what is known as the Haverfield-Barnhardt complex.

No hearing date has been set on the appeal, however.

The report also detailed the controversy stemming from a planned celebration recognizing the 30th anniversary of the rediscovery of the endangered black-footed ferret. Efforts to conduct the meeting in Oakley failed after prairie dog opponents objected. Eventually, celebrations were conducted at a private Logan County residence and at an event at Sternberg Museum of Natural History.

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