Last spring as the grasses started greening up and springing across the landscape, I joyfully drove through one of the most magnificent prairie dog colonies left along Colorado’s Front Range. Almost two hundred acres were packed full of the cozy little families all basking in the sun, rolling on the burrows, kissing and playing. The happiness that coursed through me knowing that these beautiful creatures were alive, fat and happy ended abruptly with a knotted stomach when I knew they wouldn’t be here much longer. Every colony of prairie dogs, existing today in the small pockets of remaining prairies, is in danger. Every. Single. One. And why? Because of growth. Metastatic growth of our towns and profit lines. Because of the ranchers’ ability to dominate the land with livestock grazing. Because of the deep underlying ignorance of a population that has been fed so many myths that they have forgotten the truth hidden in reality while a false world of predation continually destroys the living systems that matter most to the continued cycle of life.
Now when I drive through the same area the land is no longer alive with the thousands of prairie dogs that once raced through the landscape, back and forth over burrows, bringing joy to this place and feeding various birds and living creatures. The land is now eerily quiet. No more chirping sounds echoing through the land. Their calls of warning and communication that once brought the land to life, brought the sounds of the living to us, to the people who cared, are now silenced. I take in the sights and smells of a now poisoned land. The memories are still seeping fresh out of the ground and into my mind. Conceiving what once was, only a few short months ago, and what now is, breaks me down into pieces of outrage and sorrow. A few lone survivors peep out and timidly witness what was once their colony’s home. They look sad and lonely, longing for their lives to be what they once were. Their chirping sounds have changed, and will never be the same.
In November of 2014, I saw an article with the headline “Castle Rock getting one of nation’s largest new malls.” I knew what this meant – the death of thousands of prairie dogs. For a mall. Thousands of prairie dogs for a mall that few want and no one needs. I began calling the obvious people for help with the support of my organization, Deep Green Resistance (DGR), as we looked for someone who would help stop the killing of the prairie dogs. We called upon the Humane Society’s Prairie Dog Coalition, WildEarth Guardians, Alberta Development Partners, LLC, and the Town of Castle Rock, all of which were not much help at all. The Prairie Dog Coalition, a relocator with Growing Ideas, a local activist and myself met with the developers. We asked that they allow us to relocate the prairie dogs in June once the mothers had their babies and we could safely and viably relocate the colony. Alberta Development didn’t have much to offer and the most “generous” deal they would give us was to push 100+ acres of prairie dogs into 7 acres of unsuitable drainage land. This was not a viable option. The Prairie Dog Coalition and Southern Plains Land Trust decided that the only available option for them was to get money for the soon to be dead prairie dogs and began begging Alberta Development for mitigation.
Read the rest of the article on the Deep Green Resistance Colorado website.