Heard Around the Nation 19

A word about this regular section: It contains only outrageous, outlandish, and disturbing pontification. Any sensible, progressive, or intelligent statement will be instantly punted into cyberspace. In its December 2006 online version Outdoor Life magazine continues to set new standards for stupidity, paranoia and yellow journalism in its immensely challenging work of further reducing the shaky credibility of the hook-and-bullet press. Consider the piece linked below in which Jim Carmichel rips National Geographic for a 1998! article on black-tailed prairie dogs. After disemboweling National Geographic for its entirely accurate reporting on how alleged sportsmen "vaporize" prairie dogs and leave the body parts to fester in the sun -- and after savaging Smithsonian for accurately reporting that prairie dogs “need a few friends” -- he attacks the “National Wildlife Foundation” (there is no such entity) for the National Wildlife Federation’s petition "in July" (it was July 1998, but he doesn’t get around to reporting the year) to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for listing the black-tailed prairie dog as threatened. All this, contends Carmichel, is part of an organized plot by these unholy outfits, “a steeping stone in their overall strategy of ending all sport hunting and fishing.” “Yes,” declares a National Wildlife Federation official. “In 1998 we did petition the Fish and Wildlife Service to list the black-tailed prairie dog. The service basically said, ‘Get real, we're not gonna do it,’ so we went away and that was pretty much the end of it.” Actually, the federation had an excellent case. Because prairie dogs eat forbs and grasses, they have been widely poisoned and shot in the mistaken belief that they compete with livestock. Studies, however, show that they help livestock at least as much as they hurt them because, in aerating and turning over soil, they produce high-quality forage. The species now occupies a tiny fraction of its former range. Remove the black-tailed prairie dog from its niche in our western plains and -- as Americans have discovered over the past century -- the whole biota collapses like the sides of a stone arch. This stocky ground squirrel, whose name derives from its bark, is called a “keystone species” because it provides food and/or habitat for at least at least 29 birds, 21 mammals, 5 reptiles, and 4 amphibians. According to Carmichel, black-tailed prairie dogs require killing because black widows and rattlesnakes are among the creatures that use their burrows. www.outdoorlife.com/outdoor/hunting/article/0,,195064,00.html