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Blog - A Common Sense Approach to Protecting the Utah Prairie Dog


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When the government acts, it does so at the expense of individual liberty. Residents of Iron County Utah are painfully aware of the reductions of individual liberty that have occurred as a result of the Endangered Species Act protections for the Utah Prairie Dog. While all Utahns value the natural beauty of our state and would like to see wildlife protected, Utahns also value common-sense approaches to resource management.

In 2011, I sponsored legislation with other members of the Utah delegation that would allow the US Fish and Wildlife Service to remove Utah prairie dogs from cemeteries and airports. When the Endangered Species Act was enacted, I don't believe those who passed it envisioned a law that would be so restrictive that Americans wouldn't be able to protect the sanctity of the gravesites of their loved ones or the safety of their airports when these interests collide with the interests of a protected species.

In addition to these restrictions, I outlined additional problems with the Endangered Species Act protections of the Utah Prairie Dog in a 2011 op-ed:

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Unfortunately, federal laws that are outdated, unfair, and irresponsible have hampered efforts to respond.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 official 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.

I am aware of recent efforts within the state of Utah to empower local agencies with greater roles in protecting endangered species such as the Coral Pink Sand Dunes Tiger Beetle, the Gunnison Sage Grouse, the Greater Sage Grouse, and the Utah Prairie Dog. I am hopeful that the US Fish and Wildlife Service will recognize the value of working with local and state officials to actively manage protected species as opposed to protecting species through top-down mandates from Washington that can't take into account local nuances like the locations of cemeteries, the safety needs of airports, or private property values.

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