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Agency Says Wind Farms|Don’t Threaten Gopher

WASHINGTON (CN) - There is not enough evidence that energy development through gas drilling and wind farm construction threatens the Wyoming pocket gopher, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In announcing that protecting the gopher under the Endangered Species Act is not warranted at this time, the agency also noted insufficient evidence that habitat degradation through climate change threatens the gopher.

The pocket gopher is a burrowing, larder hoarding animal that digs extensive tunnel systems for protection from prey and to store food that it carries underground in its highly elastic cheeks.

Wyoming is considered to have the greatest potential for wind energy development in the nation because of high winds, minimal population density and limited natural barriers.

In a petition to protect the pocket gopher, the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance and Center for Native Ecosystems argued that road construction and wind farm development would have a negative impact on pocket gopher habitat. The agency argues that in some cases such developments have helped some pocket gophers by loosening compacted soil, making it easier for them to burrow.

As with all status reviews under the Endangered Species Act the agency continues to collect data from the public, commercial and scientific sources in case changes in the status of the species warrant further review.

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