Recent Press Releases

Washington, D.C. —  Senator John Thune issued the following statement in reaction to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service release of seven black-footed ferrets in Wind Cave National Park yesterday:

"After months of listening to concerns from local ranchers about the release of black-footed ferrets within the boundaries of Wind Cave National Park, and sharing those concerns with officials at the Department of Interior, I am shocked that the Department of Interior has proceeded with this particular black-footed ferret release. Coupled with neighboring ranchers' concerns is the fact that the prairie dog landscape in the Park is smaller than those of other attempted black-footed ferret releases. This appears to me as a recipe for a disastrous reintroduction.

"The only positive factor I see regarding this black-footed ferret release is that the Department of Interior has attempted to address several concerns expressed in my April 26, 2007 letter regarding the proposed reintroduction of black-footed ferrets:

  • Despite the endangered status of the ferrets reintroduced under a recovery permit, incidental take is still permissible by private landowners implementing normal ranching and other private lands activities, including prairie dog control on private lands.

  • Individuals or entities conducting lawful activities such as lethal prairie dog control will not need individual take permits to undertake those activities.

  • The Wind Cave prairie dog management plan addresses encroachment of prairie dogs onto other properties. The National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have committed to the retrieval of ferrets that leave Wind Cave if a landowner so wishes and authorizes such removal. Current state law also provides control of unwanted prairie dogs coming from public lands; the proposed ferret reintroduction will not circumvent this State law.

  • One of the objectives of the experimental reintroduction plan is to avoid or minimize adverse effects on local economies, life styles, and the natural environment.

"However, I still have several concerns because the black-footed ferret reintroduction process at Wind Cave National Park is inconsistent with other reintroduction activities of this species, an issue that does not seem to be adequately justified by officials at the Department of Interior.

"The Department of Interior chose to ignore a "common sense" approach to black-footed ferret introduction," said Thune. "It baffles me that the Department of Interior doesn't focus its reintroduction efforts on federally-owned land not already plagued with prairie dog-created problems on surrounding ranches and on one with a larger prairie dog population within its boundaries, to ensure success and minimize problems. I plan to make sure the "good neighbor" policies they've provided me in writing are adhered to."