Board OKs prohibition of prairie dogs

August 16, 2013 • Local News

Chaves County Commissioners fired a warning shot Thursday across the bow of the Bureau of Land Management’s prairie dog dreamboat, further blocking safe passage for hundreds of soon-to-be homeless critters.

But the move may not have totally eradicated BLM’s plan to move a population of Clovis prairie dogs to land in Chaves County.

Commissioners unanimously passed an ordinance banning the importation, relocation and harboring of prairie dogs within the county.

“These things are a nuisance and there’s just no reason in my mind to even fight the fight,” said Commissioner Smiley Whooton.

The board heard from several citizens who spoke about the destruction prairie dogs cause to agriculture and some who urged members this week to do something to stop BLM from moving an unwanted population of the species from Clovis.

“I’ve heard from a lot of people on the street,” said Commissioner Greg Nibert. “And everybody said, ‘You make [auth] sure those prairie dogs don’t come to Chaves County.’” I never thought we’d be debating this type of ordinance.”

Chaves County didn’t need to inherit other people’s problems by providing a home for a species that could threaten or ruin the county’s agriculture base, Nibert said.

He also was encouraged by a possible push to deal with controlling feral hogs at the state level.

“I draw my paycheck from my land,” said Tim Pollard, a rancher who has seen 80 acres covered by prairie dogs within four years. “We have feral hogs and we have prairie dogs. If they tell you they won’t move on you, that’s not true.”

The same county ordinance passed Thursday applies to feral hogs. Prairie dogs and feral hogs will not be allowed to be imported, relocated or harbored on lands in the county. Property owners who do not control, contain or confine them, and allow them to migrate or get onto adjoining or neighboring property may be cited and fined.

BLM Roswell Field Office Manager Charles Schmidt said his office would continue to evaluate and prepare an environmental assessment of the property designated for the transportation, despite the decision.

Curry County has banned the transportation or importation of prairie dogs. The City of Clovis has also agreed not to allow the removal of the unwanted critters from two public parks and its Civic Center by Texas-based Citizens for Prairie Dogs, unless Chaves County agreed to the move.

But, BLM’s Roswell office is moving ahead with an environmental review of the proposed move, regardless, Schmidt said.

“I’m not seeing a huge conflict,” Schmidt said. “Still, because I have a proposal, I have to follow our procedures and I have to follow it through. We have somebody feeding the dogs. We’re just trying to apply the process here.”

The BLM’s Chaves County property proposed for the prairie dogs is located within a 58,00-acre Area Critical of Environmental Concern (ACEC), near Elida. The land encompasses Gabel Ranch. A Roswell Management Plan amendment targets sensitive species, including the lesser prairie chicken and dunes sagebrush lizard.

Some of the property is public, some is state property and some is privately owned.

The move would help with genetic diversity, according to Dan Baggao, a BLM wildlife biologist, and possibly prevent the future need to potentially list the species.

Nibert said he hoped the BLM wouldn’t continue pursuing the idea.

“I hope we don’t get to the point that the sheriff has to pull over the BLM convoy trying to bring in prairie dogs into Chaves County, but I think that’s where we’re headed,” Nibert said. “I think on this issue, we’re going to disagree.”

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