The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has illegally given permission to Garfield and Iron counties for potential development on wide swaths of Utah prairie dog habitat, which could kill thousands of the threatened, social mammals, Friends of Animals claims in a new lawsuit.
The nonprofit, incorporated in New York, is asking a federal judge to overturn the so-called "incidental take permits" the agency issued to the counties in 2013 and 2014.
As defined under the Endangered Species Act, "taking" can mean harassing or killing protected animals or degrading their habitat.
Iron County's permit will allow the taking of 600 acres of habitat in Iron County, which the FWS estimates could result in the loss of 7,689 prairie dogs over three years, the suit said. Garfield County's permit allows the taking of 220 acres of habitat and could lead to the loss of 785 animals, it adds.