Let’s talk prairie dogs. The cute, annoying, burrowing animals (which my dogs love to chase) that are very prevelant all along the Front Range. RTD’s East Corridor project will be impacting colonies of prairie dogs on its trek from Denver Union Station to DIA.

RTD can’t simply build right over the little buggers, so they have implemented a Prairie Dog Mitigation Guidance policy (in full compliance with Federal and state standards, of course). There are four steps included in this policy:

  1. Attempt to avoid colonies greater than two acres in size.
  2. If that isn’t possible, move towards a live relocation (rounding them up and moving them somewhere else). Prairie dogs are so popular that any relocation across county lines requires approval by the Board of Commissioners from the receiving county – this is required by state law.
  3. In the event that a live relocation isn’t feasible, the prairie dogs are humanely euthanized and donated to programs and organizations for injured raptors or black-footed ferrets (endangered).
  4. In the event no recovery program will take the prairie dogs, they are humanely euthanized on-site.

In RTD’s case along the East Corridor, a live relocation was not possible. A willing relocation site was not found in time – therefore, the third option was used. RTD, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), and local jurisdictions tried finding willing recipients for the prairie dogs beginning in 2007. That effort proved fruitless, however. Denver Transit Partners (DTP, RTD’s concessionaire on the Eagle Project) contacted a dozen local jurisdictions and potential relocation programs, but no willing recipients stepped forward.

RTD and DTP have a commitement from a local injured-raptor recovery program to use the prairie dogs euthanized along the East Corridor as a food source for its program. Some of the raptors benefiting from this arrangement are either threatened or endangered species. If the raptor program cannot use the upwards of 400 prairie dogs expected, RTD and DTP have an agreement from a black-footed ferret recovery program as well. RTD and DTP will continue to puruse live relocation along the corridor if relocaton areas can be identified and feasible.

Utility relocations are currently underway (which we will cover soon) and major construction activities will start later this year and in early 2012. This is another sign of progress along the East Corridor – less than 5 years until we can take a train from downtown to DIA!