News from the Secretary

News from the Secretary by Secretary of Agriculture Larry Gabriel I have always considered myself an environmentalist. Each of us has a responsibility to be good stewards of the land so that the people that follow after us are not left to try to clean up our messes.

But I also believe we have to strike a balance between good stewardship, environmental protectionism, and common sense.

I am often told that in South Dakota we have some of the best habitat in the nation. We have clean air and water, large expanses of grass and trees, and an abundance of wildlife. I can't always say that when I drive through other states.

While everyone seems ready to acknowledge South Dakotans are good stewards of the land, I am constantly amazed at how many people are eager to have us change what we are currently doing to protect a certain species that someone decides needs protection.

South Dakota is often identified as having some of the greatest populations of these species in the nation. But for some reason, we are still told that we need to change what we are doing.

I am one who supported the idea of writing a prairie dog management plan, mostly because I believed it would help prevent the federal government from listing the prairie dog as a threatened species. After many years of trying to eliminate them, we have done little more than keep the population in check.

The black-tailed prairie dog is a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act, largely due to a nationwide decline in the population caused by a bacterium producing pneumonic or bubonic plague. To this point, plague has not been found in South Dakota.

Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that our control efforts have not allowed the prairie dog to become prone to disease. Perhaps what we are currently doing makes sense.

It could be that S.D. farmers and ranchers are the real environmentalists, and the federal government should just let us do what we have been all along.

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