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Conservation Groups Knock Utah Senators Over Endangered Species Bill

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Utah prairie dogs are only the size of a teacup poodle, but their federally protected status has been causing  big headaches in southwestern Utah.

So, Utah’s Republican senators are proposing to scrap Endangered Species Act protections for any species like the Utah prairie dog that's found in just one state. Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee call their legislation “commonsense reform.”

Conservation groups are panning it.

“It’s pretty terrible," says Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Endangered species would lose protection overnight and many of them wouldn’t have a prayer, and they would go extinct.”

Hartl says 1,098 threatened and endangered species would be at risk under Hatch and Lee’s bill. He says the bald eagle, the humpback whale and the peregrine falcon have all been saved by the current law.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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