0222FerretReintroductionsr.cfm Malatya Haber USCA files comments on ferret reintroduction plan
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USCA files comments on ferret reintroduction plan

The United States Cattlemen's Association has filed comments with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding its plan to reintroduce the Black Footed Ferret in 12 Western states. The proposed plan was originally published in the Dec. 19, 2012, edition of the Federal Register, during the busy holiday season, with comments due just 30 days later. USCA requested and received an extension to the comment period, which ended Feb. 22.

Development of the ferret reintroduction plan involves the creation of Safe Harbor Agreements with landowners in a 12 state region under which landowners can voluntarily enroll their property in the program. The ferret reintroduction plan involves preservation and maintenance of prairie dog populations, which are the ferret's principle prey and incorporates the use of insecticides and research of sylvatic vaccines. The plan references certain "incentives" for landowners who enroll in the plan, but since an economic analysis has not been completed, few details are available about the costs and taxpayer obligations associated with the program.

"This is a problematic plan that hasn't received appropriate public dialogue or scrutiny," said Mary Ann Murray, USCA director and co-chair of USCA's Property Rights and Environment Committee, Jordan, Mont. "Landowners in the 12 affected states deserve public hearings during which they can be informed about the program and USCA has called on the FWS in its official comments to conduct those public meetings in every state involved. Voluntary enrollment in this program could very well result in the involuntary participation of neighboring property owners because neither prairie dogs nor ferrets abide by fence lines, gates or other physical boundaries. Landowners need to understand the plan's stated intent to construct 'structural and vegetative' barriers that the agency says will ensure prairie dogs and ferrets are held within the acreage placed into the program. Since prairie dogs are burrowing animals that routinely dig under fence lines or other barriers, I have considerable skepticism about the agency's plan to control migration of the species."

Murray continued, "Since USCA discovered this little-known plan and made it public, we've received an immense response of concern from individuals in the affected states, particularly with regard to the lack of information that has been made public. USCA has called for a comprehensive economic analysis and an Environmental Assessment of the plan. We have also requested a delay in implementation of any action in order to allow the agency to engage with landowners in targeted states as well as rangeland health experts."

Jon Wooster, USCA president, says the limited information available raises more questions than answers, particularly with regard to economics. "It is irresponsible, at a time when our government is facing sequestration and enormous debt issues, that a federal agency is considering implementation of such a sweeping plan without being fully transparent about the associated costs and financial obligations. Implementation of this plan should be delayed indefinitely until we have the details we need to make an informed decision about whether or not to proceed. USCA will monitor this issue as it unfolds and will continue to communicate the details to our members and affiliates."

Established in March 2007, USCA is committed to concentrating its efforts in Washington, D.C., to enhance and expand the cattle industry's voice on Capitol Hill. USCA has a full-time presence in Washington, giving cattle producers across the country a strong influence on policy development. For more information go to www.uscattlemen.org.

Date: 3/18/2013

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