By Tracie Sullivan
Iron County property owners who get permits will no longer be limited in the number of prairie dogs they can take off their land, thanks to a new Habitat Conservation Plan the Iron County Commission passed Monday.
Under the new plan, the commission can authorize the removal of an unlimited number of Utah prairie dogs each year from any 200 acres in the county. Because the prairie dogs are protected by the Endangered Species Act, the county is responsible in part to ensure the animal’s protection and recovery.
In the past, the plan allowed the commission to take 40 prairie dogs a year. Permits authorizing property owners to remove a set number of Utah prairie dogs from their land were given to residents based on the number of the species on their properties.
“There could be 40 dogs on one piece of property, so we were really limited in what we could do,” Commissioner Dave Miller said.
The new plan will be in effect for two to three years, giving the commission time to get the species removed from the endangered list.
“The long-term goal of all parties is to alleviate ESA regulations on private property and to conserve prairie dogs on protected habitat,” Commissioner Dale Brinkerhoff said.
The plan was a consorted effort by the county, local property owners, People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and the Utah State Legislature. The idea was initially discussed at the Utah Prairie Dog Summit earlier this year.
At the summit, officials laid out two objectives: to protect private property owners from the obstacles surrounding the prairie dogs and to stabilize and increase Utah prairie dog populations so the animal can be taken off the endangered species listing. Working with those goals in mind, the commission and other interest groups went to work this past summer to find a solution to the problem. More....