Kansas group sues over EPA's plan to poison prairie dogs

WASHINGTON — A Kansas conservation group has sued the Environmental Protection Agency over a plan to kill prairie dogs by using pesticides that are also dangerous to other wildlife.

Audubon of Kansas, along with another group, Defenders of Wildlife, have alleged that the EPA ignored the concerns of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about the use of the pesticides.

They want to bar the agency from registering the products, Rozol and Kaput-D, in 10 states: Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Wyoming, Montana, Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and New Mexico.

The pesticides, which are used to control gophers and other rodents, cause the animals to bleed to death. But, according to the lawsuit, “The secondary toxicity…is often lethal.”

It claims that their predators are at risk as well. One is the black-footed ferret, which was among the first animals to be placed on the endangered species list five decades ago and remains one of the most threatened.

Among the others are federally protected birds, such as the bald eagle and whooping crane.

“The widespread use of Rozol increasingly being allowed by EPA is creating a vast landscape that is basically unsafe at any speed for the black-footed ferret and a lot of other predators,” said Ron Klataske, executive director of Audubon of Kansas.

The EPA said in a statement that it received a letter from the World Wildlife Fund about the use of pesticides and prairie dogs, “which we are treating as a petition to suspend this use of Rozol. The docket will include the risk assessments as well as letters from other parties expressing similar concerns.”

The lawsuit, filed last week, said pesticides could “damage ferret recovery efforts and impact other federally-protected species.” It claims that the endangered species act requires the EPA to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service about the use of the pesticides, but that it failed to do so.

Earlier in September, Fish and Wildlife asked EPA to delay the registration of Rozol until both agencies had a chance to talk, but received no response.

“They should be consulting with Fish and Wildlife,” said Jason Rylander, a staff attorney for Defenders of Wildlife.