October 17, 2004


Electoral dogfight erupts in South Dakota: A small rodent could hold the key to the Senate (Tim Reid, 10/18/04, Times of London)

THE black-tailed prairie dog has never been a political animal. For centuries, on South Dakota’s vast and mysterious plains, it has played no part in the state’s momentous events. [...]

[I]n 1999, in a move that outraged South Dakota’s ranchers, a vocal minority that no politician dare offend, the US Government named the prairie dog, which destroys pastureland, as a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

This was because prairie dogs are the prime food source of the federally protected black-footed ferret, the most endangered mammal in North America, which has been reintroduced on to the grasslands of the state’s south west.

For four years, unable to poison prairie dogs on federal land that borders their property, ranchers have watched the rodent’s population explode. Two years ago prairie dogs covered 13,000 acres of the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands. They now dominate 23,000 acres, invading private ranch land, destroying cattle-grazing pasture and threatening the farmers’ existence.

Two years ago Mr Daschle’s Senate opponent, John Thune, then a congressman, invited government officials from Washington to South Dakota to argue that prairie dog poisoning should be restarted.

This year, it suddenly became clear to Mr Daschle that Mr Thune, 43, who came within 524 votes of winning South Dakota’s other Senate seat in 2002, was winning over the ranchers, not least with his prairie dog politics, and was now a serious electoral threat.

Since then, to cover his right flank, Mr Daschle has gone out of his way to voice his loathing for the rodent. Last week, after lobbying from both candidates, the Bush Administration agreed to remove the prairie dog’s protection, and allow poisoning in “buffer zones” next to ranch land.

In a delicious piece of political knifing, Gale Norton, Mr Bush’s Interior Secretary, hailed Mr Thune’s “leadership” on the issue. She did not mention Mr Daschle.

Mr Thune, statistically tied in the polls with the incumbent, described Mr Daschle as a Johnny-come-lately to the prairie dog issue. He only became anti-prairie dog, he claimed, “after he was boxed into a political corner”.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 17, 2004 11:36 PM

I can see the signs - "Vote Daschle: He Wants To Poison Cute Furry Animals Too!"

I suppose that's only slightly better than "Vote Thune: He Wanted To Poison Cute Furry Animals First!"

Now watch as animal-rights activists get mad at Thune but not at Daschle...

Posted by: Just John at October 18, 2004 2:46 AM

Having known Ms. Norton when she was Attorney General of Colorado, I can testify that she is one tough, saavy political in-fighter.

Posted by: jd watson at October 18, 2004 3:02 AM

Let's examine the prarie-dog controversy for what it really: part of the holy war. Seriously, it is fallout from the neo-pagan attempt to repudiate the Adamic and Noitic covenants placing man at the head of creation.

There are plenty of good reasons to control prarie dogs: they damage crops, they compete for browse, they dig holes into which livestock may step and become injured, they carry bubonic plague, and last but not least, they look so neat when a 55-gr. SX bullet goes through one.

But neo-pagans want to replace human predators with the non-human types, so now we have more black-footed ferrets and more bubonic plague.

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 18, 2004 4:39 PM