Pine Trees and Prairie Dogs - Governor Gordon Weighs In | Big Horn Basin Media

Pine Trees and Prairie Dogs – Governor Gordon Weighs In

Written by on December 3, 2020

Governor Gordon shared his thoughts on Wyoming flora and fauna whose federal protections are being evaluated.

In a state released by the Governor’s Office, he commented on the two ongoing discussions on two Western species: whitebark pine trees and prairie dogs.

Whitebark pine is the highest elevation pine tree in the western United States. It is prevalent throughout Yellowstone National Park and is an important food source for several Yellowstone wildlife.

The tree is threatened by white pine blister rust, a non-native fungal disease. It was deemed serious enough that the whitebark pine is classified as endangered in Canada. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a study that would give the trees “threatened” status under the Endangered Species Act.

While the rule would include a 4(d) rule, protecting grazing and logging operations and does not propose any critical habitat designation, the governor expressed hesitation at this prospect of federal protection.

“While the inclusion of a 4(d) rule is encouraging and avoids undue burdens for private landowners and businesses, any listing under the ESA is concerning,” Governor Gordon said. “Wyoming always seeks to avoid the need for listing and will remain committed to working with our federal partners to approach species conservation in a pragmatic manner.”

Meanwhile, a Final Record of Decision has been released by the U.S. Forest Service after an 18-month planning period. The Thunder Basin National Grassland Plan Amendment plans for the elimination of thousands of prairie dogs from 50,000 acres to make way for more cattle grazing without local wildlife competition.

“This is an important plan for Wyoming,” the governor said. “It is an intersection of maintaining ranching communities and species conservation in a patchwork of surface ownership. I thank the Forest Service for the continued inclusion of my office and the state agencies throughout this process.”

Both federal actions will proceed under the purview and with the continued cooperation of the Governor’s office.

Governor Gordon is still working in isolation, after testing positive for COVID-19 the week of Thanksgiving. He has been experiencing mild symptoms but is able to keep working.

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