During August, I had an opportunity to see up close and personal just how damaging the prairie dog has been to certain portions of southern Utah. Both public and private lands have been affected and Utahns are right to demand that local and state officials do something about it.
Unfortunately, federal laws that are outdated, unfair, and irresponsible have hampered efforts to respond. Currently, the Endangered Species Act insists that when determining an officially protected species designation only prairie dogs on public land be counted. This represents a gross understatement of the actual population of prairie dogs in southern Utah, and has wrongly resulted in the designation of the animal as a “threatened” species. State and local officials are therefore prevented from properly managing the prairie dog population.
In addition, the Fish and Wildlife Service is only allowed to eliminate prairie dogs on lands that are considered agricultural areas. This regulation has had a disastrous effect on Iron County’s Paragonah cemetery and Parowan airport. Recently, the Utah delegation has unified behind legislation, known as the ‘Protecting Public Safety and Sacred Sites from the Utah Prairie Dog Act,’ that would address the desecration of cemeteries and the public safety hazards created by this senseless federal regulation.
While much more needs to be done to address the larger problems managing the prairie dog population, I stand ready to work with our federal delegation to update our laws, protect the property rights of Utahns, and assist our state and local officials.