The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) released a record of decision today on a management plan amendment for Thunder Basin National Grassland in Wyoming, finalizing a rollback of crucial protections for prairie dogs at the site. The end of these protections is a fatal blow to the prospective reintroduction of critically endangered black-footed ferrets to Thunder Basin, which has been managed as a future reintroduction site since 1988. 

“This amendment goes against good science and land management leadership for healthy grasslands. This decision rolls back decades of work conserving prairie dogs on Thunder Basin National Grassland as a major ferret recovery site. With fewer than 350 black-footed ferrets left in the wild, this may be the end for this species,” said Chamois Andersen, senior Rockies and Plains representative at Defenders of Wildlife.

The new management plan amendment allows individuals to shoot and poison prairie dogs in previously protected areas of the grassland. Since prairie dogs make up around 90% of the black-footed ferret’s diet, it is unlikely there will be enough prairie dogs to successfully reintroduce and recover a viable black-footed ferret population. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had previously identified Thunder Basin as perhaps the best possible site to reintroduce black-footed ferrets in the United States. Since Thunder Basin is one very few sites that could support the recovery plan benchmark population of 100 adult ferrets, it is possible that this decision will prevent the black-footed ferret from ever recovering.

“As the sun sets on the Trump administration, the U.S. Forest Service seems intent on taking the black-footed ferret down too—for the profit of a few cattle ranchers,” said Lauren McCain, senior federal lands policy analyst at Defenders of Wildlife. “It’s unconscionable that Thunder Basin National Grassland will not protect even a small corner to help save the ferret. We will not let this decision stand without a fight.”

Defenders is exploring potential options to reverse the amendment so that black-footed ferrets will eventually be reintroduced and put on the path toward recovery at Thunder Basin.

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With nearly 2.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.

Media Contact

Jake Bleich headshot
Jake Bleich
Communications Associate
jbleich@defenders.org
(202) 772-3208

News

Washington, DC

No Place to Nest: Protecting the Ever-shrinking Habitat of the Golden-Cheeked Warbler

The beautiful, brightly colored golden-cheeked warbler has returned to Texas from Central America to breed and start a new generation. Unfortunately, these songbirds may not have a home to return to if their woodland habitat continues to disappear at the current rate.
Washington, DC

Take Down the Wall to Protect Imperiled Species

In addition to harming human communities, border wall construction in recent years has destroyed some of the nation’s most valuable wildlife habitat and blocked critical wildlife movement at a continental scale, including within national parks, wildlife refuges, monuments and wilderness areas.