Ferret release, © Defenders of Wildlife


Lindsey Sterling-Krank of the Human Society (left), Jonathan Proctor of Defenders and Kristy Bly of World Wildlife Fund do their best jump-yip imitation after successfully relocating hundreds of prairie dogs at Thunder Basin last summer.

It’s not everyday that Defenders gets recognition from the federal government for our tireless work to protect and restore wildlife. So when it does happen, it’s cause for serious celebration!

For the second straight year, our prairie expert Jonathan Proctor received an award for his efforts to save prairie dog colonies across the Great Plains. This time he’s getting the Rocky Mountain Region award for “Outstanding Wildlife Partners” from the U.S. Forest Service for work that started several years ago at Conata Basin, part of the Buffalo Gap National Grassland in South Dakota,  and has expanded more recently to include Thunder Basin National Grassland in Wyoming.

Jonathan has been instrumental in promoting several prairie dog conservation projects. But in particular, he helped implement new nonlethal prairie dog management strategies on public lands. At Conata Basin, a tall-grass “vegetative buffer” has helped reduce poisoning by over 90 percent. At Thunder Basin, a precedent-setting relocation project has moved hundreds of prairie dogs from areas near private lands where they’re often shot or poisoned to fully protected ground at the center of the grassland. Protecting these prairie dogs also ensures the survival of all the species that depend on them for food or use their burrows for shelter, including burrowing owls, ferruginous hawks, golden eagles, swift foxes, badgers and endangered black-footed ferrets. (Read more here about our success at Thunder Basin.)

Lindsey, Jonathan and Kristy at Thunder Basin in 2011.

But Jonathan didn’t do it alone. What makes this award truly special is that it recognizes our close collaboration with World Wildlife Fund and the Prairie Dog Coalition of the Humane Society of the United States, as well as our project partners with the U.S. Forest Service, Wyoming Game and Fish and many individual landowners.

Here’s the text of the award:

Outstanding Wildlife Partners – 2012

Lindsey Sterling Krank – Prairie Dog Coalition, The Humane Society of US
Jonathan Proctor – Defenders of Wildlife
Kristy Bly – World Wildlife Fund

Managing prairie dogs, the endangered black-footed ferret, and associated wildlife species on the National Grasslands is often difficult, costly and fraught with controversy.  The Forest Service has received invaluable support from Kristy Bly of World Wildlife Fund, Jonathan Proctor of Defenders of Wildlife, and Lindsey Sterling Krank of the Prairie Dog Coalition-a program of The Humane Society of the United States.

These three individuals and their organizations have been important partners on the Buffalo Gap and Thunder Basin National Grasslands. Over the past four years, these individuals have worked individually or coordinated as a group with the Forest Service and accomplished the following:

  1. Purchased 12.5 miles of electric fence materials worth approximately $18,600 for Conata Basin.  This fencing material was key to successfully reducing prairie dog colonization onto adjacent private land by forming an ungrazed vegetative buffer. They provided about 3 miles of electric fence to Thunder Basin for use in prairie dog translocation projects and to create vegetative buffers. Also provided labor to help install electric fences.
  2. Purchased prairie dog shooting closure signs worth close to $2,000.
  3. Purchased and delivered $10,000 worth of Delta Dust in 2008 for emergency plague control in the Conata Basin, the first year plague was discovered in the ferret reintroduction area.
  4. Provided dust donations in 2010 and 2011 for operations in the Conata Basin and Thunder Basin National Grassland.  The donation in 2011 alone consisted of 3,095 pounds of Delta Dust worth approximately $31,000, which helped protect 14,708 acres of habitat from plague.
  5. In Dec. 2011, World Wildlife Fund worked with the Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and Prairie Wildlife Research to prepare a grant proposal for Conata Basin black-footed ferret recovery, securing $155, 950 worth of Delta Dust and other supplies to be used over the next several years.  Without WWF’s assistance it is unlikely that this would have been successful.
  6. Provided labor, equipment and expertise to conduct a prairie dog relocation effort on National Forest System lands, implementing the revised Thunder Basin National Grassland Plan.  This project reduces conflicts with private landowners, while restoring prairie dog habitat that had been diminished by plague in the heart of the ferret reintroduction area. As a result, 899 prairie dogs were moved from conflict areas and 8 new colonies were re-established.
  7. Their commitment and tenacity has not only resulted in successful projects, but also helped develop more positive relationships between the Forest Service, environmental groups, and local ranchers and landowners by fostering communication and developing creative solutions.

In appreciation for their tireless efforts, positive attitudes, creative problem-solving, and passion for conservation of prairie species, we are pleased to present Jonathon, Lindsey and Kristy with this award.

Congratulations, Jonathan! And nice team work, everyone!