Dinosaur National Monument seeks comments on prairie dog management plan

Colorado Hunter magazine

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National Park Service staff will develop a management plan for white-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys leucurus) inhabitating developed areas at Dinosaur National Monument, the agency announced in a press release.

White-tailed prairie dogs are a native species in the monument, but have negatively impacted some monument facilities, including weakening the berm surrounding the sewage lagoon near the Quarry Visitor Center, according to the release.

NPS Management Policies state that when a species interferes with the management objectives of a site, they can be considered pests and may require management action. Only prairie dogs in close proximity to structures and other park facilities in developed areas would be subject to potential management action, prairie dogs in other areas of the monument would not be affected, the release stated.

NPS currently is in the scoping phase of this project and are inviting area residents to submit written comments online at the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/dinoprairiedogs. You may also submit written comments to Superintendent Mary Risser, Dinosaur National Monument, 4545 HWY 40, Dinosaur, CO 81610, according to the release.

Residents are asked to provide all comments by July 20, 2012. Comments will be considered during preparation of the management plan and the environmental assessment, the release stated.

The NPS proposes to treat white-tailed prairie dogs in developed areas using an adaptive management approach that employs a variety of techniques. These techniques may include applying repellent products, constructing physical barriers, instituting mechanical options such as trapping and relocation, and applying chemical options, according to the release.

Adaptive management requires:

  1. Management actions to be based on clearly identified goals and outcomes.

  2. The use of monitoring to ensure management actions are meeting the identified goals/outcomes.

  3. The use of new information to re-evaluate management activities and goals and/or to facilitate management changes, if needed.

Monument resource managers will attempt to use the lowest level of management necessary in a particular situation. These management actions are presented in escalating order, and actions typically begin with the lowest level action, such as monitoring, the release stated.

Then, through the adaptive management process, park managers determine if it is necessary to progress to the next level of management action, according to the release.

Monument staff will prepare an environmental assessment for managing white-tailed prairie dogs in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act to provide the decision-making framework that:

  1. Analyzes a reasonable range of alternatives to meet project objectives.

  2. Evaluates potential issues and impacts to park resources and values.

  3. Identifies mitigation measures to lessen the degree or extent of these impacts.

This project will also be conducted in accordance with the National Historic Preservation Act and other applicable laws, regulations, and policies, the release stated.

The NPS encourages public participation throughout the NEPA process, which has two opportunities for the public to formally comment on the project. Once during initial project scoping and again following public release of the EA, according to the release.

Any questions regarding prairie dogs or for any other information on Dinosaur National Monument, call (435) 781-7700 or visit www.nps.gov/dino.

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