Please Speak Up to Protect Prairie Dogs of Conata Basin
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Status: Open
Originally Posted: April 23, 2008

Please Speak Up to Protect Prairie Dogs of Conata Basin
...In doing so, this additionally maintains an existing program of $25 million in tax money already invested to preserve the black footed ferret population, one of the most endangered mammals of North America.

Included in this alert:
1. CNN video
2. Background Information
3. What You Can Do:

a. Write, Email, Fax, or Call!
Sample letter: "Killing Prairie Dogs, Your Tax Dollars at Work"

     b. Crosspost this alert to others 

Sources of Information
5. Recommended Links - learn more

On Thursday, February 20, 2008, CNN broadcasted a short segment about prairie dogs becoming new prey among a select small group of ranchers of Conata Basin, South Dakota. CNN's Miles O'Brien reports on two federal agencies, one protecting a rare species and another possibly dooming it.
See video below:

Running Time: approximately 2 minutes

Background Information:
Badlands/Conata Basin is a 300,000 acre area located in southwestern South Dakota.

Importance of the area: Conata Basin is home to the world’s most important black-footed ferret reintroduction site. Conata Basin has been successful enough for black footed ferrets to be trapped and taken to new recovery areas and start new populations. The reason the area is thriving is a result of the extensive prairie dog colonies. Prairie dogs are the ferret’s food source. Over 90% of the ferret’s diet is composed of prairie dogs. Black-footed ferrets can not live without large prairie dog colonies.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and partners have invested an estimated $25 million in recovery efforts for the black-footed ferret. Killing prairie dogs destroys much of the progress in Conata Basin.  Furthermore, it would sacrifice America’s investment in recovering the black footed ferret, North America’s most endangered mammal. (From

What YOU Can Do:

Please Write, email, fax, or call!
Sample letter and contacts below...

Killing Prairie Dogs – Your Tax Dollars At Work
Sources, contacts, and sample letter submitted by:

Sample letter follows.

Rick Cables, Regional Forester
USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region
P.O. Box 25127; Lakewood, CO  80225-0127
ph: 303-275-5450; fax: 303-275-5482
email: [email protected] 
web mail:

The Honorable Mark Rey
Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Room 217E, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250
ph: 202-720-7173; fax 202-720-0632
email: [email protected]

This letter is prepared to inform you about the issue. Try to shorten and personalize your letter before sending.

Dear Under Secretary Rey and Mr. Cables,

The eradication of prairie dogs in the western grasslands of Conata Basin is a stunning example of government duplicity at the taxpayer's expense.

On one hand, USDA seeks to appease roughly 15 ranchers who claim prairie dogs and cows vie for the same grass. Government-subsidized ranchers want USDA Forest Service to poison up to two-thirds of Conata Basin prairie dogs.

On the other hand, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has invested 26 years and over $25 million taxpayer dollars to renew the black-footed ferret, among the most endangered mammals in North America. This program continues to release ferrets into the wild, including the largest population of about 300 ferrets in the basin.

I am disgusted USDA is set to undermine Fish And Wildlife by killing prairie dogs -- the black-footed ferret's primary sustenance. The extermination of prairie dogs is not only inhumane and excessive, it also undoes the ferret's comeback by wiping out 90% of their diet.

How can one agency save an imperiled animal, while another destroys the same animal?

Ranchers have already persuaded the forest service to exterminate prairie dogs on federal lands adjacent to their private property. The poisoning occurs annually. Now, USDA is poised to sabotage Fish and Wildlife's ferret reintroduction plan by poisoning even more Conata Basin prairie dogs.

The prairie dog is a key link in the Badlands/Conata Basin chain, where restoration of bison, bighorn sheep, black-footed ferrets and swift fox form a nearly inclusive Great Plains ecosystem. Conata Basin supports the only large black-tailed prairie dog complex on federal lands.

Cattle graze on almost 100% of national grasslands, whereas prairie dogs occupy less than 1%. I ask the U.S. government to stop killing prairie dogs.

Please do not spend taxpayer dollars on private-interest ranchers. Please do not transform public lands into slaughter grounds. Poison assures a painful death, with internal bleeding that may last as long as 72 hours. Poison also affects burrowing owls, rabbits, songbirds and more non-target species.

I urge USDA to invest in a non-violent, non-lethal approach to prairie dog control on interior lands. And while you're at it, preserve the black-footed ferret -- a species our tax dollars helped to save in the first place.

Thank you,

Please Crosspost this alert to others!


*   Prairie Dog Coalition
*   Lindsey Sterling Krank, Environmental Scientist & Director, Prairie Dog Coalition
   [email protected]
*   CNN VIDEO: The Prairie Dog War
*   CNN TRANSCRIPT: Broken Government Series, The Prairie Dog War

*    Kinship Circle  

Recommended links to learn more about prairie dogs, and the black footed ferret:

Posted February 28, 2008.  Stay tuned for updates to this page.

Update - May 28, 2008

Thanks to the tremendous level of support in this alert, the Prairie Dog Coalition has received word that key decision makers are in fact, "feeling the pressure" from concerned citizens from around the country.  ...Keep the letters going and continue to circulate this alert to others.

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