The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 14 Apr 2005 12:06:05 -0400 (EDT)
From: WWF Conservation Action Network <>
Subject: Help Endangered Ferrets     SEND ACTION~a25592u30516

Action deadline:  April 17, 2005

Dear Alan,

Black-footed ferrets were considered extinct until a few survivors were found in Wyoming in 1981.  Since then a successful captive breeding and reintroduction effort raised hopes that the highly endangered ferret will recover.  But that recovery is now threatened by the U.S. Forest Service's proposal to kill prairie dogs, ferrets' primary food source.

Because they depend on prairie dogs for food, ferrets can only survive in large prairie dog colonies.  Unfortunately, these colonies sometimes result in conflicts with cattle ranchers when they spread onto adjacent ranches on private land.  As a result, last fall the government applied poison to nearly 6,800 acres within the Buffalo Gap National Grassland in South Dakota.  Because non-lethal management options for the control of prairie dogs are available and because the Buffalo Gap National Grassland is critical to reintroduction of the black-footed ferret, several conservation organizations filed suit to stop the poisoning.  Under the terms of a settlement, further poisoning was prohibited until completion of an environmental impact statement and long-term solution for management of prairie dog colonies.

The Forest Service recently released its draft environmental impact statement and is seeking public comments on three alternatives for prairie dog management.  Unfortunately, all of the alternatives have drawbacks and two call for expanded killing of prairie dogs, which would eliminate ferret recovery options in several areas and destroy the best remaining ferret habitat on the planet.

Speak out now to support non-lethal approaches to prairie dog management.


*  QUICK OPTION:  Send the message below, as is, by simply replying to this email.  (This option works only if you received this email directly from the Conservation Action Network.)

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Please forward this alert to your friends and colleagues.  You can make a big difference for ferrets and prairie dogs.  Thank you for your help.


Steve Forrest
World Wildlife Fund
Bozeman, Montana

  [Steve Forrest is a biologist and attorney who specializes in prairie dog and black-footed ferret conservation for WWF's Northern Great Plains program.]

***************************LETTER TEXT**************************

Donald J. Bright, Forest Supervisor
Nebraska National Forest
Attn:  Black-tailed Prairie Dog Comments
125 North Main Street
Chadron, Nebraska 69337-2118

Dear Mr. Bright,

Please accept the following comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) regarding prairie dog conservation and management on the Nebraska National Forest and associated units in South Dakota and Nebraska.

I strongly prefer Alternative 1 of the DEIS, which relies on non-lethal methods of minimizing prairie dog conflicts with adjacent landowners.  However, this alternative should be modified to state clearly that the provisions of the existing Nebraska National Forest management plan will be retained and that the poisoning of prairie dogs will be allowed only when site-specific management plans have been developed.  The Nebraska National Forest management plan was finalized only two years ago after extensive planning and the receipt of tens of thousands of public comments that supported strong protections for prairie dogs and other wildlife.

Alternative 1 also should call for the continued priority management of the Conata Basin and Smithwick areas for black-footed ferret recovery.  In particular, prairie dogs must be protected in the Conata Basin area within the Buffalo Gap National Grassland in South Dakota because this area is essential for the recovery of the endangered black-footed ferret.  Millions of dollars and dozens of agencies, organizations, and individuals have worked to make ferret recovery succeed there.  I appreciate your continuing support for the priority management of these areas.

I strongly oppose Alternative 2.  There is no reason to support a mile-wide poisoning and shooting kill zone around the entire perimeter of these lands.  Alternative 2 arbitrarily constricts the ferret recovery area and offers no long-term solution to addressing border management conflicts.  Alternative 3 is similarly flawed because it adopts this "buffer" concept as well, although at only half or quarter mile encroachment.  The full range of management tools, including poisoning, should only be used when site-specific management plans are developed.

A wide range of non-lethal alternatives exist that can reduce unwanted prairie dog expansion while still allowing black-footed ferrets to thrive.  Please make maximum use of these alternatives, including:

* consolidating public lands around important prairie dog areas so as to reduce public/private conflicts in these areas;

* eliminating livestock grazing in buffers next to private lands in order to maintain the tall vegetation that restricts the expansion of prairie dogs onto private lands; and

* when drought or other factors decrease the availability of grass on public land -- which leads prairie dogs to move and seek food elsewhere -- reducing or eliminating livestock grazing there so that the grass supply isn't further diminished and the prairie dogs aren't likely to expand onto private lands.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide these comments.


Your name and address
will be inserted here

**************************END OF LETTER TEXT*************************


Although once found in grasslands throughout the Great Plains, from Canada to Mexico, the black-footed ferret is today arguably North America's most endangered mammal.  Almost entirely because of historic poisoning of prairie dogs, fewer than 500 ferrets exist in the world, and of those, roughly 250 are found in South Dakota's Conata Basin.  A large population exists in the Conata Basin because the Nebraska National Forest, which manages national grasslands in the Conata Basin, has made protection of prairie dog colonies on its lands that provide habitat for the ferret a high priority and included that priority in its most recent revision of its management plan in 2001.  Now, government officials would like to change course and authorize poisoning and shooting of prairie dogs in this critical wildlife habitat.

You can read the "Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Black-tailed Prairie Dog Conservation and Management on the Nebraska National Forest and Associated Units" at

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