The City of Lubbock has unveiled a plan for “relocation” of the estimated 50,000 prairie dogs but provides no description of how that would be carried out or where they would be moved. Unless all the dogs can be “humanely” moved, the plan calls “chemical and/or concussive control” to exterminate the colony.
The Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC) and city officials blame prairie dogs for increased pollution into the water table underneath the Lubbock Land Application Site where the city has been applying its wastewater but neither the state nor the city have supported this hypothesis with any scientific documentation.
The resolution, put forward by a Texas PEER and a number of conservation groups, recommends that TNRCC and the city of Lubbock refrain from removing prairie dogs “unless and until they have developed sound scientific evidence that the prairie dogs are responsible for any increases in nitrate levels or other pollution at the LLAS.”
“The notion that prairie dogs cause groundwater pollution is a real stretch of logic,” said Texas PEER Director Scott Royder, noting that prairie dog burrows rarely run deeper than 5 feet, while the water table sits between 50 and 90 feet underground. “The water table is in bad shape from years of dumping wastewater, planting non-native grasses, and allowing cattle to graze on the site.”
The Texas Prairie Dog Working group was established in 1999 after the US Fish and Wildlife Service made the controversial determination that while Black-tailed prairie dogs deserved to be listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act but the agency lacked the money and staff to make that designation. The goal of the group is to ensure that prairie dog populations continue to increase without federal protection.
“It’s pretty clear that destroying tens of thousands of prairie dogs is not going to help recover a species on the brink of extinction,” concluded Royder.