In what seems like a novel idea for controlling Colorado’s pesky population of prairie dogs, a Democratic state representative suggests allowing local governments to introduce a predator to their environment, the endangered black-footed ferret.
But according to at least one report, some Republicans are looking with suspicion at the plan, concerned that the presence of an endangered species would be used as an excuse to tie up controversial infrastructure projects.
“If we introduce a threatened or endangered species, are we adding a layer of bureaucracy that makes it more difficult for us to move water, more difficult for us to build infrastructure, more difficult for us to be able to access those minerals [below ground]?” Republican state Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg asked the Colorado Observer.
“Those are my concerns,” he said. “In my mind, I can see scenarios where people might want to use this” to blockade projects.
Prairie dogs are abundant in Colorado and can be a nuisance. Efforts to eradicate them from land to be developed — most commonly by poisoning and fumigating their colonies — is often met with protest from animal rights groups.
Under current law, private landowners can introduce ferrets to prairie dog colonies as a means of controlling prairie dog populations. A bill sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Randy Fischer would allow local municipalities to do the same, even though a pilot program started last year won’t be analyzed for its effectiveness until 2015.
But if the ferrets are not successful at controlling prairie dog populations, they will have to be removed from the land before poisons or gases are used. Already, one endangered species — the Prebble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse — is causing headaches for engineers and work crews trying to rebuild Colorado’s canyon highways damaged in September’s floods.
On Monday, the bill passed its second reading in the Democratic controlled house.
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