The Utah Prairie Dog & the Endangered Species Act

photo courtesy of Brian Slobe

The Utah prairie dog (Cynomys parvidens), found only in southwestern and central Utah, was listed as an endangered species on June 4, 1973 (38 FR 14678). At the time of listing, the species was threatened by habitat destruction and modification, over-exploitation, disease, and predation. Subsequently, Utah prairie dog populations increased significantly in portions of their range, and on May 29, 1984 (49 FR 22330), the species was reclassified as threatened with a special rule to allow regulated take of the species. This special rule was amended on June 14, 1991 (56 FR 7438) and in 2012, to increase the amount of regulated take allowed throughout the species' range.

Utah Prairie Dogs (UPDs) historically occupied several Utah Counties: south to Iron County north to Millard County and east into Garfield and Wayne Counties. Today, the majority of UPDs are found in Iron, Garfield, Wayne and Piute Counties. Human population growth within the range of the Utah prairie dog has resulted in conflicts between species recovery and land-use practices and development. Several efforts have been implemented to facilitate the recovery of the Utah prairie dog; however, effective coordination among recovery efforts, regional planning and development must be enhanced to facilitate accomplishing desired management goals.

State of Utah's Division of Wildlife Resources - Management on Non-Federal Lands

On November 5, 2014 U.S. District Court Judge, Dee Benson, issued a decision in People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, case No. 2:13-cv-00278-DB, vacating the special 4(d) rule which granted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authority under the Endangered Species Act to regulate the take of Utah prairie dogs on non-federal lands. Due to the ruling State law alone now regulates the take of Utah prairie dogs on private, state and local government lands (nonfederal lands). Utah prairie dogs on protected private and federal lands are still protected under the ESA. (UDWR, 2015)