Image by mandj98 via FlickrPrairie dogs are considered pests not just by farmers and ranchers — their burrowing can render vast acreages unsuitable for cattle grazing — but by golf course operators and even agencies of the federal government. (Threatened with fines of a $100,000 a day from the Federal Aviation Administration, the City of Albuquerque, N.M. reluctantly agreed to exterminate an infestation of prairie dogs at the airport in March of 2007.)
The animals are cute, though they can carry a disease known in animal populations as the sylvatic plague — among humans as the “Bubonic Plague.”
Like most rodents, prairie dogs reproduce, well … like rodents. Each female bears four to six pups per year. Since most of their natural predators other than man have been eliminated or greatly thinned out, we’re not likely to run out of prairie dogs any time soon.
There are two kinds: black-tailed and white-tailed prairie dogs. In 1905, one group of white-tailed prairie dogs isolated in southern Utah was identified as the Utah Prairie Dog (Cynomys parvidens.)
Some biologists believe two of the white-tailed subspecies, C. parvidens and C. leucurus, were once a single interbreeding population, and have suggested the three white-tailed “species,” C. leucurus (identified 1890), C. gunnisoni (identified 1855), and C. parvidens should be grouped together under the name Cynomys gunnisoni.
Can the different “species” interbreed and bear fertile offspring, which would indicate they’re not really separate “species,” at all? No one seems to know. And “preservationists,” of course, don’t want to find out — any more than they want to acknowledge the polar bear can’t be a “threatened species” if it can breed and produce fertile offspring with regular brown bears.
These days, those who wish to block all human development on the land find it real handy to have even rodent pests broken down into as many “species” as possible.
There may be plenty of prairie dogs overall, but back in 1972 only 3,300 Utah prairie dogs could be found in 37 colonies. The “species” was listed as endangered.
By the spring of 2004 the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources counted 4,022 of the critters, estimating their total population at 8,000. The species was upgraded from “endangered” to “threatened.”
What does that mean, in practical terms, to residents of southern Utah?
A federal “prairie dog permit” is now required to build a home, even on private land, in the affected counties. This year, more than 600 such “permits” were sought by about 82 land-owners — some of whom wanted to build subdivisions.
Only 62 permits were granted. Some have waited more than three years for “permission” to build on their own land.
This is what the extreme environmentalists want. They do not believe the earth is a place which human beings are supposed to put to their use. Rather, their faith teaches them that human beings are an alien “infestation” on the land — explaining their willingness to use any excuse, no matter how bizarre, to “protect” the most barren landscape from any human incursion.
They do not seek merely to “protect” lovely babbling brooks from being turned into slag heaps, arguing mankind might find a more productive use. Rather, they seek to protect nature and its resources FROM being made useful to mankind.
U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, recently told the St. George Spectrum “It is entirely unacceptable that a person must wait years to build a home on their own property.”
Yes it is. But attempting to “compromise” with the green extreme, paying lip service to the need to “protect” the “threatened prairie dog where appropriate,” spots the enemies of property rights and human progress two runs at the top of the ninth.
It is this entire religious doctrine, so at variance with the pride most Americans feel for the way we have built shining cities and fed the world by making the desert bloom — this doctrine that mankind is an alien “infestation” on the land — that needs review and reconsideration.
Yes, the green extreme has a right to believe this (though if they really do, one wonders why they continue to have children, or — having born them — suffer them to live.) They’re even free to buy private land in southern Utah at market rates, pay the property taxes on it, and refrain from making any productive use of that land save turning it over to serve as a deluxe preserve for prairie dogs.
But the rest of us are supposed to be protected by the First Amendment from having any such religious doctrine “established” by the government — which is to say, imposed on us by force of law.