The park is proposing to reintroduce approximately 20 to 25 black-footed ferrets annually for the next three to five years. After reviewing comments during the public comment period, it became apparent that some people thought the ferrets would be reintroduced under a “nonessential experimental” designation. Clarification was needed so everyone understood that if ferrets were reintroduced, their initial status would be endangered and authorized under a 10(a)(1)(A) scientific experimental/recovery permit issued under the Endangered Species Act. This type of permit allows experimental reintroductions to occur but also provides mechanisms to ensure that private property interests are not impacted.
Private landowners would still be able to continue all lawful operations and activities including using registered rodenticides to control prairie dogs and hunting on private lands under incidental take exemptions authorized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering this reintroduction effort as an experiment to determine if ferrets can survive on small prairie dog populations. The park’s recently completed prairie dog management plan limits prairie dogs to between 1,000 and 3,000 acres within the park.
Hence, the park extended the public comment period to clear up any confusion with the designation and status of the reintroduced ferrets. One of the reasons NEPA provides a comment period on draft plans is to clarify information such as this before the plans become final.
Comments and feedback about Resource Ramblings are encouraged and should be directed to Dan Foster, in person, or via email.