The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected a request Tuesday to consider federal protection for the white-tailed prairie dog, prompting the threat of a lawsuit by environmental groups.
DENVER − The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected a request Tuesday to consider federal protection for the white-tailed prairie dog, prompting the threat of a lawsuit by environmental groups.
The agency said in findings published in the Federal Register that there wasn't enough scientific information to warrant studying whether the prairie dog should be placed on the federal endangered species list.
Erin Robertson, a biologist with the Denver-based Center for Native Ecosystems, said the groups that sued to force Fish and Wildlife to consider their petition might sue to overturn the ruling.
"I think it's a pretty indefensible finding," Robertson said.
Sharon Rose, spokeswoman with the regional Fish and Wildlife office in Lakewood, said the agency would consider any new information about the white-tailed prairie dogs.
Agency biologists, however, found there wasn't enough information in the groups' petition to justify studying whether the species needs special protection, she said.
The white-tailed prairie dog is found west of the Continental Divide in sagebrush-covered lands in northwestern Colorado, northeastern Utah, central and western Wyoming and in south-central Montana.
It is a different species from the black-tailed prairie dog, which is found east of the Continental Divide.
Advocates argue that oil and gas drilling, disease, overgrazing and lax environmental regulations have eliminated the white-tailed prairie dogs from all but 8 percent of their historic range.
Source: Associated Press