Black-tailed Prairie Dog Management Plan
The National Park Service Midwest Regional Director Ernest Quintana recently completed the planning process for an environmental assessment written to manage the park's black-tailed prairie dog population by signing a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).
An environmental assessment was prepared to analyze the impacts of continuing current management (Alternative A, the no action alternative) and of implementing alternatives that propose a range of tools for managing prairie dogs at varying acreages within the park (Alternative B, 3,000 to 5,000 acres; Alternative C, the preferred alternative, 1,000 to 3,000 acres; and Alternative D, 300 to 1,000 acres).
Alternative C, the Preferred Alternative, was the selected action. This alternative was chosen to represent the middle of the range of acreage alternatives and to include the existing size of the prairie dog population. In this alternative, the size of prairie dog colonies in the park will be maintained at a sustainable level, for both the long-term viability of the prairie dog population and the availability of forage and habitat for other species within the park. (To review the FONSI, click on "Documents" on the left.)
Under the selected action, the management approach will enable the park to achieve a prairie dog population ranging near the current population size and to incorporate as much accommodation as possible in addressing potential conflicts with neighboring land uses. Incidences of prairie dogs dispersing beyond park boundaries onto adjacent land will be addressed on a case-by-case basis in support of a good neighbor policy, which will be characterized by reasonable and prudent methods to manage movement of prairie dogs out of the park, while still maintaining the prairie dog's ecological role in the park.
With this management approach, the desired future condition for the prairie dog population in Wind Cave National Park will consist of the following major features:
• Colonies comprising a range of 1,000 to 3,000 acres, and
• Adequate and sustainable forage conditions for bison and elk.
The available management tools under the selected action include habitat management tools (management of other species' grazing levels, mowing and mechanical thinning, natural barriers, physical barriers, landowner incentives and conservation easements funded by non-NPS entities), non-lethal control tools (live trap and relocate), and lethal control tools (rodenticide, shooting by park staff). The implementation of tools will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine the most appropriate means to achieve the control objective while having the fewest adverse effects on resources.
The primary purposes of developing a management plan for the black-tailed prairie dog at Wind Cave National Park were to propose and evaluate an approach for sustaining a long-term population of prairie dogs that meets other park objectives; to conserve natural processes and conditions; to identify tools to manage the black-tailed prairie dog population in the park; to manage park resources in accordance with the park's general management plan, resource management plan, and Management Policies 2001; and to protect public health, safety, and welfare. The resulting plan would be used to manage prairie dogs in the park until the plan is obsolete or no longer feasible.
The analysis was prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, regulations of the Council on Environmental Quality (40 CFR 1508.9), the National Park Service Director's Order #12: Conservation Planning, Environmental Impact Analysis and Decision-making, and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended.
Biologist Dan Roddy (605/745-4600)
Park Information Officer Tom Farrell (605/745-4600)