Managing prairie dogs for prairie heritage biodiversity and wildlife tourism
Che, D & Cable, T 2010, 'Managing prairie dogs for prairie heritage, biodiversity, and wildlife tourism', Journal of Heritage Tourism, vol. 5, no. 4, pp. 285-96.
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The black-tailed prairie dog is a keystone species of the North American short-grass prairie, large parts of which are devoted to cattle ranching. However, the prairie dog population has been dramatically reduced by eradication programs developed in response to the animals' competition for, and consumption of, grasses that would otherwise feed cattle and to the long-held belief that their burrows pose a threat to livestock. This article will discuss the important role the black-tailed prairie dog plays in biodiversity as ecosystem engineer and prey as well as in the natural and cultural heritage and economy of the short-grass prairie, which has been dramatically transformed by Euro-American settlement. It will focus on the case study involving a group of ranchers in western Kansas' Logan County whose alternative land management practices include rotation grazing and maintaining prairie dogs for the animals' role in supporting other wildlife, despite fierce opposition by neighboring ranchers and government officials, These ranchers' lands provide opportunities for wildlife watching and tourism centered on the prairie dogs and their predators such as the endangered and recently reintroduced black-footed ferret.