photo courtesy of Brian Slobe

The Utah Prairie Dog Recovery Implementation Program was first conceived in 2008 when Iron County began to develop a new Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and realized that Garfield County was also working on developing an HCP for their County. Ultimately, Iron County wanted their new HCP to work towards recovery of the UPD so that it could be delisted. Because recovery of the species requires progress across the UPD Range, in three different Recovery Units, they realized that it would be beneficial to try to work with other Counties that lie within the other two Recovery Units. The UPD Recovery Units are the West Desert (mainly Iron County), the Paunsaugunt Plateau (mainly Garfield County), and the Awapa Plateau (mainly Wayne County and parts of Sevier and Piute Counties). As a result, Iron, Garfield and Wayne Counties agreed to work together to develop a joint HCP that would cover all three of their Counties; this became known as the Rangewide HCP.

 At the same time, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was providing the funding for development of the new Rangewide HCP through their Endangered Species Mitigation Fund (ESMF). The Director of DNR at the time suggested that not only should the counties work together, but it would behoove the counties to also work with state and federal land management and regulatory agencies in a formal collaborative effort focused on UPD recovery.  Historically, many different agencies have worked on UPD recovery efforts and though some coordination was occurring between the agencies, at the Recovery Team level, efforts weren’t formally being coordinated with the Counties or local governments. Thus, a Recovery Implementation Program was born, to ensure that everyone who was working on UPD issues would be at the same table, collaborating together, leveraging resources and making sure that efforts were not redundant. The Recovery Implementation Program model was borrowed from the successful Virgin River Recovery Program in neighboring Washington County. Before the Recovery Program was fully established, the participating agencies and entities signed on to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that outlined the intention to formalize local, state and federal coordination through creation of a Recovery Implementation Program and to hire a Program Coordinator. Once the Program Coordinator was hired in 2010, the Program Document was created, which would replace the MOU. The Program Document outlines the organizational and operational structure of UPDRIP; signatories to the Program Document are committed to the goals and objectives of UPDRIP.

The Utah Prairie Dog Recovery Implementation Program (Program) establishes a multi-agency cooperative effort intended to implement the Recovery Plan by coordinating and facilitating the recovery of the Utah prairie dog while balancing and accommodating land uses and needs of the human population within the species range.  In addition, this Program provides the option to incorporate conservation and recovery actions for other native species within the range of the Utah prairie dog to the extent that such actions are consistent with Program goals.

Specifically, the Program is designed to:

  1. Coordinate and implement recovery actions for the Utah prairie dog;
  2. Manage and balance ongoing land uses and allow for continued growth and development while making progress toward recovery;
  3. Take an adaptive management approach wherein biological information is gathered, reviewed, and incorporated into the Program on an annual basis; and,
  4. Coordinate with existing efforts and provide a mechanism to promote the recovery of other federally listed species and prevent the need for additional federal listings within the range of the Utah prairie dog.