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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility * Defenders of Wildlife * Humane Society of the United States * Forest Guardians * Great Plains Restoration Council * Animal Legal Defense Fund * Llano Estacado Audubon Society

For Immediate Release: Monday, October 7, 2002
Contact: Scott Royder, Texas PEER, (512) 441-4941

Conservation Groups Charge Lubbock Removal Plan is Illegal

Austin - A coalition of conservation groups today filed suit in Travis County Superior Court to block a state-approved plan to destroy one of the largest black-tailed prairie dog colonies in the Southwest. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Defenders of Wildlife, The Humane Society of the United States and others charge that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) improperly approved a plan by the city of Lubbock to eradicate up to 50,000 prairie dogs in a misdirected effort to address the city’s growing groundwater problems.

The colony on the Lubbock Land Application Site (LLAS) has been at the heart of a statewide controversy since June, when TCEQ declared that prairie dogs were a threat to groundwater underneath the site, and ordered their removal. The city responded with a "compliance plan" featuring "chemical and/or concussive control" to exterminate the colony.

The state’s own wildlife experts immediately condemned the plan. In September, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department fired off a critical letter stating that "TCEQ admitted having no evidence that prairie dogs were creating problems at the LLAS," and asked the agency to "revise" its notice of violation to the city. To date TCEQ has ignored these pleas and multiple attempts by local conservation organizations to suggest alternative plans that do not threaten prairie dog populations. The suit cites the complete absence of scientific study to support the plan and demands that the prairie dog removal action halt.

Black-tailed prairie dogs are considered a candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Three years ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided that full threatened species protection for the dogs was "warranted but precluded," meaning that, while scientific data justifies listing, the Service did not have the resources to do so. Large scale eradication efforts have imperiled the black-tailed prairie dog in Texas. Over 150 species of plants and wildlife are closely associated with black-tailed prairie dogs, and many of these are declining as well.

"We are filing this lawsuit because the City of Lubbock refuses to listen to reason," said Juan Mancias, member of the Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe, and a plaintiff. "If we listen, we will recognize that when we take care of the prairie dogs and all of their relations, then we will take care of the land, the air, the water and all peoples."

"When the gas clears and there are 200,000 pounds of dead prairie dogs in the ground, Lubbock’s water will still be polluted," said Texas PEER director Scott Royder. "We hope that this lawsuit will force the city to admit that the 14 million gallons of wastewater dumped daily is the true contamination source."


Additional Contacts:

Bill Snape, Defenders of Wildlife, Washington DC, (202) 682-9400

"It is outrageous that the TCEQ would allow the mass carnage of ecologically important prairie dogs on state lands that will inevitably lead to the deaths of other wildlife species such as the imperiled burrowing owl," said Defenders of Wildlife’s Vice President William Snape.

Defenders of Wildlife is a leading nonprofit conservation organization recognized as one of the nation's most progressive advocates for wildlife and its habitat, with more than 430,000 members and supporters

Bette Stallman, Ph.D., The Humane Society of the United States, Washington, DC, 301-258-3147

"Science, not speculation, should drive management actions intended to reduce groundwater nitrate levels," commented Bette Stallman, a wildlife scientist with the Humane Society of the United States.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has seven million members and constituents. With active programs in companion animals, wildlife, animals in research, and farm animals and sustainable agriculture, The HSUS works to protect all animals through legislation, litigation, investigation, education, advocacy and field work.

Jarid Manos, Great Plains Restoration Council, Ft. Worth, TX,      (817) 335-0122

"Prairie Dogs have been here for a million years," said Jarid Manos of the Great Plains Restoration Council. "Like the buffalo and the antelope, they have been driven to extinction and now are being scapegoated for problems created by men."

Great Plains Restoration Council is a multiracial non-profit organization building the Buffalo Commons by bringing the wild buffalo prairies back and restoring healthy sustainable communities to the Great Plains, from the Indian reservation to the prairie outback to the inner city and beyond.

Ellen Roots McBride, President, Llano Estacado Audubon Society Lubbock, TX, (806) 785-1876

"Science protects us from the randomness of personal opinion. As affected citizens, we insist science be the basis of regulatory decisions" said Ellen McBride, president of the Llano Estacado Audubon Society. The Llano Estacado Audubon Society's mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems - focusing on birds, other wildlife and habitat - for the benefit of human heritage and the earth's biological diversity.


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