Prairie, wildlife disappearing under urban sprawl, study say


Mar 11, 2001
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Prairie, wildlife disappearing under urban sprawl, study says.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - Colorado's prairies are vanishing as Front Range cities expand and small family farms disappear, a study says.
As a result, wildlife that depends on prairie grasses are in decline, hurting cities and towns that depend on outdoors enthusiasts, according to a study released Tuesday by the National Wildlife Federation.

"When you think of conservation, Americans usually think of the Amazon rain forest or protecting old-growth timber in the Pacific Northwest," said Rich Bachand, a grasslands ecologist who conducted the study in Colorado for conservation group.

"But very few people realize our prairie is disappearing right in front of our eyes, not only in Colorado but across the country."

The numbers of prairie dogs, mule deer and the endangered black footed-ferret are all declining, the study said.

"How can we tell our children that we've let a magnificent species like the black-footed ferret slip away?" said Jody Flemming, a National Wildlife Federation spokesman.

"We should work to avoid such a scenario, but we're going to need a united and concerted effort if we're to restore what is fast being considered as North America's most endangered ecosystem," he said.

The study, titled "The American Prairie: Going, Going, Gone?" said 90 percent of the nation's tallgrass prairies and as much as 70 percent of the mixed and shortgrass prairies have disappeared, especially in the West and Midwest.

The Colorado prairie began to disappear as early as the 19th century, when European settlers plowed under native grasses. Now the primary threat to Colorado's prairie grasses is urban sprawl on both sides of Interstate 25 along the foothills, the study said.

"The message here is that we need to find a balance if we're ever going to save our prairies and protect our wildlife," said Bachand.


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