Colorado DOW Discusses Prairie Dog Conservation

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Conservation of prairie dogs in northwest Colorado will be the subject of a one-day workshop in Craig on Wednesday, June 10. The workshop is an early step in the implementation of the Gunnison's and White-tailed Prairie Dog Conservation Plan which is being developed by the Colorado Division of Wildlife and various stakeholders.

The purpose of the planning effort is to ensure conservation of prairie dogs and to avoid the need for a listing of the species under the federal Endangered Species Act.

At the workshop, interested stakeholders will consider the options presented in the conservation plan and help identify specific management actions that will be most effective at the local level. Stakeholders will discuss issues unique to Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, rank proposed conservation strategies and develop an outline for a local action plan.

While many interested stakeholders have been personally invited to attend the day-long workshop, it is open to members of the public who are interested in participating in the group discussions to develop the local conservation solutions and strategies. More than 40 stakeholders have been invited to participate, including private landowners, conservationists, concerned citizens and representatives of local, federal and state agencies.

"This work session is not an opportunity for people to explain how they feel about prairie dogs," said Brad Petch, DOW senior wildlife conservation biologist for northwest Colorado. "We understand the debate but we need to move past it to make sure we conserve this species and avoid the need for it to be federally listed."

The Craig workshop will be held Wednesday, June 10 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Craig Holiday Inn, 300 South Highway 13. Anyone who did not receive an invitation and information packet, but who would like to attend the full-day workshop should contact Brian Holmes, DOW Conservation Biologist, at brian.holmes@state.co.us or (970) 878-6063.

White-tailed prairie dogs are found in areas throughout western Colorado. They play an important role in the environment. They provide an important food source for other predators such as hawks, badgers, black-footed ferrets and foxes; and their burrows provide cover for a variety of other species.

The Craig workshop will focus on the white-tailed prairie dogs in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties. Other workshops on the prairie dog issue will be held in western Colorado in the coming months. A previous meeting was held in Gunnison on May 21.

The DOW has been working on a prairie dog management plan. The preliminary draft Gunnison's and White-tailed Prairie Dog Conservation Plan was released last year. (see wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeSpecies/GunnisonsWhitetailPrairieDogConsPlan.htm) More than 1,000 comments on the draft plan were submitted by the public and an updated draft will be released later this year for further review.