Conservation of prairie dogs in the Gunnison Basin will be the subject of a one-day workshop in Gunnison on May 21. The workshop is an early step in the implementation of the Gunnison's and White-tailed Prairie Dog Conservation Plan which is being developed by the Colorado Division of Wildlife and various stakeholders.
The purpose of the planning effort is to ensure conservation of the prairie dogs, and to avoid a listing of these two species under the federal Endangered Species Act. These two species of prairie dog can be found in areas throughout central and western Colorado. Prairie dogs play an important role in the environment. They provide an important food source for other predators such as hawks, badgers, coyotes and foxes; and their burrows provide cover for a variety of other species.
The Gunnison workshop will focus on the Gunnison's prairie dog in the Gunnison Basin. The white-tailed prairie does not inhabit the Gunnison Basin. Other workshops on the prairie dog issue will be held in western Colorado during the next six months. The next meeting is scheduled for June 10 in Craig.
The DOW has been working on a prairie dog management plan for more than a year. Last year it released the draft Gunnison's and White-tailed Prairie Dog Conservation Plan. More than 1,000 comments on the plan were submitted by the public. Another draft version of the plan will be released later this year and the public will have another opportunity to provide comments.
At the workshops, stakeholders will consider the options presented in the plan and identify specific management actions that will be most effective at the local level. Some stakeholders have been working with the DOW on the prairie dog issue for more than a year. Stakeholders include private landowners, conservationists, concerned citizens, and representatives of local, federal and state agencies.
At the Gunnison workshop, stakeholders will discuss issues unique to that area, rank proposed conservation strategies and develop an outline for a local action plan. The day-long workshop is open to members of the public who are interested in participating in group discussions that will be aimed at developing the local conservation solutions and strategies. About 50 people representing specific interests have been invited to attend.
"This workshop is not a forum at which people will simply give their opinions about prairie dogs," said Gary Skiba, senior wildlife conservation biologist for the DOW. "The workshop is designed to develop specific plans for the Gunnison area. By working with local stakeholders we can identify conservation solutions unique to each area and develop on-the-ground management and action plans."
The Gunnison workshop will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Aspinall-Wilson Center, 909 Escalante Drive on the Western State College campus. The DOW requests that anyone who was invited or who is planning to attend to RSVP to Nathan.Seward@state.co.us, or by calling (970) 641-7882.
The draft conservation plan can be viewed at the DOW website: http://wildlife.state.co.us/WildlifeSpecies/GunnisonsWhitetailPrairieDogConsPlan.htm