Price Put on Prairie Dogs Aims to Save Them

Price Put on Prairie Dogs Aims to Save Them

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John Hollenhorst Reporting38-hundred dollars per prairie dog, that's how much developers will pay under an agreement signed today if they want to bulldoze prairie dog habitat in Cedar City. It's a novel idea aimed at saving a threatened species.

You've probably never heard of a Prairie Dog Bank. The agreement signed today creates the first one ever. The idea is to reduce prairie dogs where they're not wanted, and build them up somewhere else, two for the price of one.

They're pretty cute. But in Cedar City they're a thorn in the side of developers. There they are a rare and threatened species called the Utah Prairie Dog. Only about 10,000 adult dogs exist, all in Southwestern Utah, all protected by federal law.

John Andrews, Trust Lands Administration: "All new construction in Cedar City is in danger of being stopped in prairie dog habitat."

Now a solution has been worked out which essentially trades away the Cedar City colonies for a better Prairie Dog future 60 miles away.

John Andrews: "To create an improved new habitat in a remote area where the prairie dog can thrive without any human interference."

Under the new agreement, each time the prairie dog colonies on Parker Mountain grow by two prairie dogs, habitat for one dog can be eliminated in Cedar City. Developers will buy a prairie dog credit for 1900 dollars. Two credits in the bank allows one dog's habitat to be bulldozed in Cedar City.

John Andrews: "It puts a price on the value of prairie dog habitat."

Elise Boeke, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: "If the colony doesn't grow then there's no credits in the bank to be sold."

The dogs in Cedar won't necessarily be killed; developers will be encouraged to capture and move them before bulldozing. Those that do die will be martyrs for the future of their species in the bank 60 miles away.

Elise Boeke: "To make sure the colony continues to expand and grow and perpetuate."

The Prairie Dog Bank is on school trust land so the money goes to the trust lands administration, which agrees to protect the bank forever and encourage a happy life for prairie dogs.

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