CEDAR CITY–If you listen closely you might hear Utah prairie dogs in Iron County celebrating a land acquisition that protects their home. Several conservation partners recently closed on a 291-acre property – near Cedar City – in a move designed to protect the federally-listed Utah prairie dog. Additionally, a conservation easement has been secured on the private parcel, preserving the land’s natural values into the future.
“Utah prairie dogs have faced tough times due to habitat loss and plague,” said Elaine York, West Desert Regional Director for The Nature Conservancy in Utah, in a release about the project. “They can be misunderstood. What’s important to note is the vital role they play in our world. For example, their burrows allow soil to better absorb water and nutrients for people.”
The Utah Department of Natural Resources is excited about this accomplishment. The property is strategically located within other protected lands, providing the prairie dogs with better access to other areas where they can recolonize to increase their population numbers.
For the state, success is all about collaboration. “Partnerships are the key to conservation and recovery effectiveness; and, trust is the glue that holds those partnerships together,” said Chris Keleher, Recovery Programs Director for the Utah Department of Natural Resources. “We would not have been able to complete this important action without everyone involved.”
This acquisition and conservation easement provide certainty to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the land will be protected into the future for Utah prairie dog conservation.
“The prairie dog occurs largely on private lands, so long-term protection of some of these lands is important for species recovery,” added Laura Romin, Deputy Field Supervisor for the Utah Ecological Services Field Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We worked closely with The Nature Conservancy, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and Department of Natural Resources, Iron County, and the landowners to make this purchase happen and it is a significant milestone for Utah prairie dog recovery efforts.”
Iron County holds title to the property, and The Nature Conservancy retains the easement.
Fast facts about the Utah prairie dog:
Utah prairie dogs only live in southwestern Utah. They are found nowhere else in the world.
The Utah prairie dogs’ diet consists of flowers, seeds, grasses, and insects.
Prairie dogs have a more sophisticated language than chimps or dolphins. Sound analysis shows prairie dogs have different calls or “words” for different predators and can describe traits about them.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed Utah prairie dogs as endangered in 1973.
Thanks to recovery efforts like this one, USFWS downlisted Utah prairie dogs from endangered to threatened in 1984.