Does NWF really want to save prairie dogs?

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1998:

VIENNA, Virginia––The National
Wildlife Federation, umbrella for 48 state
hunting clubs, doesn’t seem to want to
answer questions from ANIMAL PEOPLE
about the NWF position on protecting prairie
dogs. Yet NWF itself invited the questions.
One hundred twenty days before the
November edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE
went to press, an NWF press release
informed us that, “In what may become one
of the most controversial endangered species
issues of the decade, the National Wildlife
Federation today petitioned the federal government
to issue emergency regulations listing
the blacktailed prairie dog as a threatened
species throughout its range,” including
Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska,
New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma,
South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming.

We also that day received a news
brief from the Quad Cities Times, describing
how one Gene Mattecheck of Moline,
Illinois, had just massacred 502 prairie dogs
in four days near Laramie, Wyoming.
This reminded us that as we immediately
informed NWF, all of the blacktailed
prairie dog range states “host, permit, and in
some instances even officially encourage
prairie dog shooting competitions. Some of
the active participants and promoters may be
active members of NWF affiliates. Has the
NWF,” we inquired, “asked its state affiliates
to request that their membership refrain
from participation in prairie dog shooting
competitions, and for that matter, to refrain
in general from killing prairie dogs?
“Has the NWF also issued such a
request to its own membership,” we inquired
further. “If NWF has issued such a request,
please forward a copy to us. If NWF has not,
please explain why not.”
No response was forthcoming.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
in August declined to place blacktailed prairie
dogs under emergency protection, but
deferred to November a decision as to
whether their status as a potential endangered
species should be formally reviewed.
According to prairie dog expert Con
Slobodchikoff, a professor of biology at
Northern Arizona University, blackfooted
prairie dogs now occupy less than 1% of their
former habitat. Much of their present habitat
is isolated from other prairie dog sites,
increasing vulnerability to disease and
inbreeding. Yet prairie dogs are the cornerstone
species of the western short grass
prairie, creating habitat and providing food
for at least 170 other species, including
endangered blackfooted ferrets, swift foxes,
mountain plovers, and burrowing owls.
Prairie dogs are now protected only
at blackfooted ferret reintroduction sites and
some locations, such as National Parks,
which permit no hunting of any kind.
Publicity about the possibility that
prairie dogs might receive ESA protection
was followed by reports of escalated burrow
poisoning by ranchers and developers,
including at a 30-acre parcel in Thornton,
Colorado, which according to Mike Soraghan
of the Denver Post was “at the heart of last
year’s successful effort to pass Thornton’s
Open Space Tax.” Soraghan was unable to
contact the property owner, one Tom Hilb.
The odds against prairie dog protection––and
survival––increased with a late
September outbreak of bubonic plague among
a 30-acre colony living near South Park
Elementary School in Pueblo, Colorado. The
disease is actually transmitted by fleas, who
live on the prairie dogs. Students were barred
from two sides of the school property until the
outbreak runs its course

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