For a conservation organization, the Nature Conservancy often seems not be very nature friendly, although usually have a political explanation.

Here is the story from the Hays Daily News.

It decribes how they poisoned prairie dogs in Logan County, Kansas. Prairie dogs are a species most groups are trying desperately to conserve. Phostoxin was used without a permit on properties adjacent to their 18,000 acre ranch in Logan County, KA. According to the story, TNC was poisoning prairie dogs that moved from their ranch onto to adjacent ones.

Apparently TNC was responding to pressure from Logan County commissioners who don’t like prairie dogs, which had made a comback on the TNC ranch.

Phostoxin is a non-selective poison. Now TNC is putting pellets of zinc phosphide down the burrows.

I think this is the kind of problem you run into with their method of trying to appease backward local interests when they buy land.

 
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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

8 Responses to Nature conservancy poisons prairie dogs until county issues restraining order

  1. avatar be says:

    Oh my !…

    “I understand the philosophy that they’ve got to kill some to keep some”

    i don’t… i thought the whole premise of purchasing private property was to use rights associated with private ownership to leverage toward conservation…

    the sad thing is the reps seemed to indicate that they thought the big problem was that they didn’t get a permit.

    Phostoxin is dirty ~ zinc phosphide also kills prairie dogs. What conservation value is upheld using donated dollars to kill prairie dogs?

  2. avatar KS says:

    Here’s the answer to your question (from the article):

    “I feel we have the right to have prairie dogs on the Smoky Valley Ranch just as our neighbors have a right to tell us to keep our prairie dogs off their land,” Manes said.

    To do that, they are looking at where the prairie dogs are dispersing from and taking steps to stop it.

    When the ranch was purchased by TNC in 1999, “there were very, very few prairie dogs on the property at that time,” Pollom said. “But they’re pretty prolific little guys.”

    “Nobody in this business has any desire of being involved in the early demise of some of these critters that we want to protect out there,” he said. “But we don’t live in the same landscape that existed historically. We’re trying to manage inside boundaries and fence lines rather than them being about to move about as they saw fit.

    “It forces you into playing a role that other forces took care of historically. So it’s the dirty and unpleasant side of wildlife management that you get forced into whether you care to or not at some point.”

    Those truly concerned with the welfare of wildlife know that when a species’ population grows to excessive numbers, it must be controlled, for its own good.

    For TNC to be able to continue their valuable work, they also must be a good neighbor.

  3. avatar mikarooni says:

    I’m not squeamish about controlling prairie dog numbers; but, poisons can never be reliably targeted or controlled and are never a good idea, under any circumstances, regardless of the rationale. They should know better and work a different approach, even if it’s just some teenager with a 17HMR and a lot of patience. If the prairie dogs can see their threat, see the consequences, and relate the danger to the individual; the colony can actually be almost herded, albeit in slow motion over a period of weeks, in the direction you want them to retreat.

  4. avatar be says:

    “Those truly concerned with the welfare of wildlife know that when a species’ population grows to excessive numbers, it must be controlled, for its own good.”

    out of control by what standard?

    excessive numbers

    determined by neighbors ~ then be honest about it. “The Neighbors’ Conservancy”.

    when tnc takes dollars for conservation ~ then uses those dollars to purchase phostoxin to kill wildlife to appease neighbors ~ that’s when you see the mission to conserve neighbors’ values eclipse the mission to conserve wildlife values. just be honest about it in the mission-statement.

    excessive numbers

    shortsighted assesments.

    “Those truly concerned with the welfare of wildlife know that when a species’ population grows to excessive numbers, it must be controlled, for its own good.”

    controlled – yes, but by what? phostoxin? tnc managers? neighbors?

    “excessive numbers” may be indicative of a problem – lack of wildlife controls – not lack of human controls. i.e. – predators. “excessive numbers” is an opportunity for more wildlife – not more phostoxin.

    perhaps wait a bit and let predators play their role. of course, a phostoxin/zinc phosphide laced prey base is not going to encourage those naturally occurring controls — and tnc will be fighting that battle with phostoxin for a long time. IPM ~ integrated pest managment occurs naturally.

    additionally on that note – if you discourage natural predator populations by poisoning them or depriving them of prey base ~ you will continue to see an out of control population of prairie dogs whenever you let up on phostoxin or other anthropogenic controls. that’s the dynamic.

    excessive numbers

    “overpopulating” prairie dogs
    2 choices of how to see it –
    (a) – an opportunity for more wildlife (i.e. – predators)
    (b) – “what will the neighbors think!?!”

    excessive numbers

    tnc has every right to use phostoxin on its private land. every right to conserve it’s livestocks’ legs by lacing its habitat and wildlife systems with toxic chemicals. every right to conserve it’s relations with its neighbors. that’s what it’s private purchase affords it.

    the thing is, that private purchase also affords them the opportunity to let their preserves play out the natural systems of balance that a wise and humble (i.e. maybe nature knows best) managment, which is focused on wildlife conservation. they choose not to do so when they choose phostoxin.

    but they do not have a monopoly on “those truly concerned with the welfare of wildlife” ~

    i understand that these critiques are discouraged and hurt people’s feelings… it’s not neighborly. but what !?! phostoxin as a means of being “truly concerned with the welfare of wildlife” ???

    i am a member of tnc. my wife paid my dues before asking me about it – she did so because the impression she got is the same as most people get. that those dollars and my name on a list will be used to promote natural systems. these details about phostoxin, about tnc’s use of “conservation” lands for livestock grazing, and the hyper-concern for the feelings of the industrial users and abusers of wildlife habitat are important to understand so people aren’t just throwing their names into a club. people want their dollars to be effective. i am frustrated with the idea that my conservation dollars would support a mindset that believes that it is more wise for chemicals to control wildlife populations than for predators to control them; more important for neighbors to be ok with how conservationists treat their private land than with the condition of wildlife on their private land.

    it takes integrity to highlight these issues ~ a willingness to be seen as unpopular and even as being the “cause of controversy”. conservationists grazing on arid land and calling it green, using phostoxin and calling it green, and hyper-concerned with placating neighbors and calling it green – that’s where the controversy begins in my opinion. it doesn’t serve wildlife or its habitat to keep shut-up about it ~ and i’d be a hypocrite if i did. open conversation works.

  5. avatar KS says:

    “I am a member of tnc. my wife paid my dues before asking me about it – she did so because the impression she got is the same as most people get. that those dollars and my name on a list will be used to promote natural systems. these details about phostoxin, about tnc’s use of “conservation” lands for livestock grazing, and the hyper-concern for the feelings of the industrial users and abusers of wildlife habitat are important to understand so people aren’t just throwing their names into a club. people want their dollars to be effective. i am frustrated with the idea that my conservation dollars would support a mindset that believes that it is more wise for chemicals to control wildlife populations than for predators to control them; more important for neighbors to be ok with how conservationists treat their private land than with the condition of wildlife on their private land.”

    I’m sorry, but that’s just uninformed. A true prairie ecosystem relies on three vital things: water, fire, and grazing. Bison roamed this area for eons before we came in and destroyed the ecosystem. The scientists at TNC know what they are doing–returning the land to its original state.

    What predators are you suggesting TNC bring in to control these prairie dogs that, in a period of only a few years, grew by tens of thousands? That is not land preservation, and not what the land would have supported historically. TNC wishes they didn’t have to poison them, but I assure you they weighed their options.

    TNC is doing a world of good, the world over, and will continue to do so.

  6. avatar KS says:

    You know, I need to get back to work but there was one last thing I wanted to say.

    I really hate the thought that you think TNC, a nonprofit, NGO that works tirelessly to set aside land and preserve its biodiversity, would be influenced by “the industrial users and abusers of wildlife habitat.” That’s just not true. Please, please send a note to the Kansas office (kansas@tnc.org) and ask them why they used the methods they used. Then you will see the whole story (not just the horribly edited Hays paper story) and you will know that your membership dollars were not wasted on imposters. They are honest people that work very hard.

  7. avatar kt says:

    KS: There was a three-part expose of TNC in the Washington Post 3 or 4 years ago – and it included info on how TNC officials and Board members were closely tied to industry and some especially to makers of various poisons/biocides. Unfortunately, I think those articles are subscription only. Who makes this poison?

    TNC in the West is known for its: “if we embrace custom and culture, no matter if it is the ecological equivalent of a southern lynching, the locals will love us a lot” mentality. And no where moreso than in its shameless lapping of the bootheels of the livestock industry. I recall when TNC had first acquired the 45 Ranch in Owyhee County (they have since sold it, but not before the BLM paid them the equivalent of something like 450,000 for a conservation easement of sorts and “access” across a long-used right-of-way across the South Fork Owyhee river). Yes, TNC charged U S taxpayers for allowing a right-of-way on one of the “main” roads in this remote region where it crossed their sliver of private lands. ANYWAY, one of the first things TNC did after they purchased the 45 was try to put cow water developments in the uplands – to do the bidding of their hired cowman. So they proceeded to put a cattle water trough INSIDE the Owyhee River California bighorn sheep Area of Critical Environmental Concern, spreading cheatgrass and other weeds into bighorn habitat – for the sole purpose of facilitating cow use on PUBLIC LAND.

  8. avatar be says:

    i do not think that TNC is ‘bad’ – nor do i think any of the personalities are ‘bad’ — i do not want TNC to bring in predators ~ my point is that the ‘problem’ of prairie dogs may not be the prairie dogs ~ it may be indicative of an opportunity to excersize patience and bare witness the natural ebb and flow of predator prey systems ~ but that takes time and if one is hypersensitive to the demands of a shortsighted neighbor – perhaps one could make it a policy to spend money and time on literature demonstrating the predator-prey dynamic, and enroll neighbors to be patient and witness themselves the opportunity for the wonderful display of natural systems i was under the understanding these places are about. if the neighbors choose not to and wish to see the prairie dogs killed – TNC has every right to insist that the neighbors lace their own property lines with phostoxin.

    really, it’s irrespective of a particular organization or individuals and more a criticism of the environmental consequences of an unwillingness to deal with controversy. conservation is controversial in many instances – where it doesn’t have to be, good ~ but when the test happens, be prepared to lean into it and use it as an opportunity to illustrate the direct issue at hand – the conservation of wildlife – not cordiality. doing otherwise may make the fate of wildlife completely dependent on cordiality – that’s where the fulcrum of efforts will be – and i just disagree that that is where it is best for wildlife. IMO.

    it simply amazes me that an organization is more concerned with offending those interests who choose to kill wildlife – than other green-minded efforts. in this instance, tnc chose to kill an animal with phostoxin that other conservation organizations highlight as an iconic species.

    The article highlights that a Mr. Pace stepped out as a result of this decision. Pace in this instance was willing to abdicate himself of this – and in doing so, probably didn’t enjoy a lot of popularity points. but he did apply pressure – and perhaps there will be a re-assesment of the practice – and perhaps he contributed to that.

    i apologize for my brazen response – but not for the hope that the conservation interest will come first in future decisions. i hope this situation spurs an internal re-assesment of the slippery slope that is ‘people-pleasing conservation’.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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