Stockgrowers request more time to review proposed black-footed ferret expansion
South Dakota Stockgrowers Association sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe requesting a delay to the FWS plan to reintroduce black-footed ferrets in 12 western states through the Endangered Species Act. The 12 states affected by the reintroduction plan are Kansas, Colorado, Arizona, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. The plan was officially submitted for comment just days before Christmas.
In the letter, Stockgrowers President Shane Kolb stated, "We believe that the timing of this comment period during the busy holiday season combined with the detailed nature of this proposal warrants an extension of the comment period to allow the potentially impacted individuals to fully review and understand the proposal before submitting their comments."
"The topic of black-footed ferret population expansion, tied so closely to the sustainable management of the prairie dog, has the potential to significantly impact the agriculture industry in all of the 12 states encompassed in this proposal. South Dakota's livestock producers could be substantially impacted by this new program."
The comment period officially ended on Jan. 18, but Stockgrowers doesn't feel that allowed sufficient time for producers and impacted organizations to fully research and comment on the proposal. "In order to ensure that the Fish and Wildlife Service builds a program with full understanding of the impacts, and to allow the impacted ranchers and communities to fully understand the proposal, we urged them to extend the comment period to a full 90-day timeframe."
A memorandum of understanding signed by the FWS, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies on behalf of 12 member states, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the U.S. Geological Survey seems to be the starting point of this proposal. The first signature on the memorandum of understanding was obtained on Sept. 12, 2012, yet the Federal Register notice was not published until more than 90 days later.
The proposal includes the introduction of a vaccine for the plague in prairie dogs, safe harbor agreements to allow for reintroduction of black-footed ferrets on private lands to include grazing and conservation programs, and general intention to expand the area for Black Footed Ferret populations in the twelve states from Texas to North Dakota.
"Stockgrowers and the landowners that have been dealing with prairie dogs for a lot of years are very concerned about the impact of this proposed program. We understand that certain landowners may want to enter into the agreements proposed in this new program but we don't want their neighbors to have to deal with the consequences that come along with an endangered species that may not stay within the boundaries of that private land," said Marvin Jobgen, Stockgrowers board member and rancher from Scenic. "If my neighbor signs this agreement, suddenly I'm subject to an endangered species and have to live without the setback areas and prairie dog controls that are in South Dakota state law."
If you would like more information about this proposal, visit www.blackfootedferret.org or contact the Stockgrowers office at 605-342-0429.