D.C., September 19, 2006 – Ranchers in parts of Nebraska and South Dakota may get some help with
prairie dog management according to an announcement this week by the U.S. Forest
Service. By October 1, 2007, the Forest Service plans to complete an analysis
and an environmental impact statement (EIS) aimed at enhancing management of
prairie dog populations to better protect land and resources. The amended forest
and grasslands plans will allow greater latitude to manage prairie dogs on the
Buffalo Gap, Oglala, and Fort Pierre National Grasslands.
The Public Lands Council (PLC) and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association
(NCBA) say this announcement represents a positive step in an ongoing resource
conflict between wildlife interests, livestock grazing, and Forest Service
“Grazing lands are being damaged more than ever before by growing prairie dog
populations because of drought conditions,” says Jeff Eisenberg, PLC executive
director and director of federal lands for the NCBA. “We have been working
within partnership programs for some time to address this issue, and we are
happy to see the Forest Service take this important step toward resolution and
set a timeline for further action.”
In April of this year, ranchers in South Dakota and Nebraska, the Forest Service,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, South Dakota Department of Agriculture, and
South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks, and local governments formed a Prairie
Dog Habitat Review Committee charged with assessing whether rangeland conditions
are consistent with the Forest Plan, or if additional management actions are
necessary to improve the condition of the land. The committee determined that
better prairie dog management was necessary, and the Forest Service has responded
positively by opening the Forest Plan Amendment process.
“It is heartening for our ranchers to know the government has been listening
to their concerns. This effort represents a move by government to consider the
balance of resource needs by all parties,” says Eisenberg.
In its announcement, the Forest Service says it is committed to being a good
neighbor and partner to local communities by being mindful of social and economic
values and relationships. The actions from this EIS are aimed at further reducing
conflicts with adjacent landowners and improving habitat conditions on national
grasslands in South Dakota and Nebraska.
A notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement should appear
in the Federal Register later this month. The amendment process is expected
to take approximately one year, and will include public comment opportunities.
“My ultimate decision, when all of the scientific analysis and public comments
have been considered, will address the need to maintain appropriate resource
conditions to sustain prairie dogs, black-footed ferrets and other species,
as well as grazing and other multiple uses,” said Nebraska National Forest Supervisor