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ESAblawg is an educational effort by Keith W. Rizzardi. Correspondence with this site does not create a lawyer-client relationship. Photos or links may be copyrighted (but used with permission, or as fair use). ESA blawg is published with a Creative Commons License.

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florida gators... never threatened!

If you ain't a Gator, you should be! Alligators (and endangered crocs) are important indicator species atop their food chains, with sensitivity to pollution and pesticides akin to humans. See ESA blawg. Gator blood could be our pharmaceutical future, too. See ESA musing.

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"This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it." -- Thomas Jefferson to William Roscoe, December 27, 1820.

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Thanks, Kevin.

KEVIN S. PETTITT helped found this blawg. A D.C.-based IT consultant specializing in Lotus Notes & Domino, he also maintains Lotus Guru blog.

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Cedar City golf course incidental take permit for prairie dogs survives motion for preliminary injunction

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Wildearth Guardians v. FWS, CASE NO.  2:07-CV-837DB (C.D. Utah, June 23, 2008).

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Prairie dogs are rodents, within the squirrel family, that occur only in North America.   The total species distribution was estimated to be 95,000 animals prior to control programs in the 1920's.  By the 1960's, distribution of the Utah prairie dog was greatly reduced due to disease, poisoning, drought, and human-related habitat alteration resulting from cultivation and poor grazing practices.  By 1972, it was estimated that there were 3,300 Utah prairie dogs, but survey counts conducted by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources in the spring of 2004 reported 4022 adult Utah prairie dogs, which represents approximately half of the total population.  Photo and caption info from the FWS Utah Prairie Dog homepage

Plaintiffs alleged that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued incidental take permits (ITPs) to Cedar City, Utah, and the Paiute Indian Tribe in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The ITPs authorize the live-trapping and relocation of Utah prairie dogs residing on a golf course and adjacent tribal lands.  Trapping is authorized during July-August each year for the duration of the permits.  The ITPs were issued in January 2007, and a full season of trapping occurred in the summer of 2007.  In April 2008, Plaintiffs moved for preliminary injunctive relief to prevent any trapping during the 2008 season.  Plaintiffs argued that there is a possibility that before a final ruling is issued all of the golf course prairie dogs could be removed and their burrows filled so as to prevent their return, but the Court found that Plaintiffs had failed to meet their burden of proving irreparable harm would occur, as explained in its June 23, 2008 ruling from the bench: "I just don't have any record evidence to satisfy that very important aspect of preliminary injunctive relief.  It is probably the most important reason we issue T.R.O.s and preliminary injunctions is to prevent irreparable harm.  I have not heard anything.  In fact, the fact that last year's take period was allowed to occur and that the take went forward under the auspices of the H.C.P. and the entire species was not wiped out."  The Court also denied a motion for stay pending appeal, and encouraged prompt briefing of the issues on the merits.

Although the Court denied the TRO and PI, it also noted that it remained quite open to the Plaintiffs' arguments as the case proceeded to the merits: "I don't see a risk to this prairie dog species between now and when we get this case taken care of.  I am not suggesting that you're not going to prevail on the whole case.  You might.  You might satisfy me that the Fish & Wildlife Service's decision was arbitrary and irrational in some way and we'll halt the whole project.  It seems to me you have three very interesting arguments.  Interesting arguments.  Maybe very was more indulgent than I wanted to be.  The fact that only ten percent of these dogs survive I think is interesting in connection with this translocation plan."  The Environmental Assessment and other documents related to the ITPs are available through the Mountain Prairie Office of the FWS.