The DGR Southwest Coalition recently held their annual Southwest Gathering, sharing skills & good food, and engaging in many discussions & strategy sessions. As part of the gathering, Deanna Meyer of Deep Green Resistance Colorado joined Brian Ertz of Wildlands Defense to discuss their recent campaign against a Castle Rock mega-mall development. We’ve reported here a little bit on the struggle, and are excited to share this video of Meyer and Ertz describing the campaign in more detail.
The campaign initially petitioned the developer to “do the right thing”: delay construction until June, so that threatened prairie dogs on-site could be relocated with the best chance of survival. Though this would leave the prairie dogs as refugees, displaced from their homes and with the rest of their community killed, at least they would have a chance to try to rebuild their lives. When the developer responded by poisoning the prairie dogs en masse (along with many others, human and nonhuman), the campaign focused on saving those who were left, and on creating an example of the developer by inflicting as much pain as possible.
The campaigners were unable to stop the development or to save all the prairie dogs, but their dedicated grassroots organizing succeeded at achieving their secondary objectives. They forced the developer to halt construction for months, allowing workers to rescue those prairie dogs who survived the mass slaughter. They’ve probably cost the developer millions of dollars and countless headaches, demonstrating the practical value to future developers of doing the right thing from the start.
Learn how these defenders of life leveraged their strengths to overcome a powerful opponent despite mainstream environmental groups saying “it can’t be done”, and how they plan to build on their win:
As we’ve reported here before, members of Deep Green Resistance Colorado, in partnership with Wildlands Defense, have been campaigning to protect a large prairie dog population from developers intent on building the largest mall in America. Many local Castle Rock, CO residents gave near-unanimous testimony on behalf of delaying construction a few months, to at least relocate the prairie dogs in a marginally humane manner before destroying their homes. Yet the town council and the developers collaborated to painfully gas the prairie dogs, to make “the problem” go away. (And to minimize the danger of any protected raptors, who predate on prairie dogs, complicating the project by being present at a required upcoming bird count.)
This behavior is unacceptable. Though the developers have already murdered many of the prairie dogs, there is still time to stop the developers from further slaughter. Equally important is the need to show that communities will impose repercussions on companies which behave in such a wantonly destructive and cruel manner, to send a message that such actions will not be profitable. If we can sufficiently damage their bottom line, it will help protect other communities against reckless corporations in the future.
To this end, prairie dog supporters have launched a fundraiser to support:
…a referendum on the zoned planning amendments that pave the way for the prospective Promenade mall. The referendum will give the people of Castle Rock the ability to decide if they want this development company, who just slaughtered in the cruelest way imaginable thousands of prairie dogs, to continue their development of the largest commercial property in the history of the town.
[…] The example in Castle Rock has the opportunity to cast a far-reaching message to all future developers that have prairie dog colonies on the land they plan to develop.
Bellmeadow, a member of Deep Green Resistance Colorado, reports on the planned construction of the newest biggest mall in the US. The mall in Castle Rock, CO will destroy the home of one of the largest remnant prairie dog colonies on Colorado’s Front Range. Already reduced to 3% of their native range and less than 1% of their original population, prairie dogs would be considered an endangered species if not for the loophole of calling them “pests.”
Recently I heard news that our county (Douglas) was getting one of the nation’s biggest malls. The news simultaneously sunk my heart and angered me. Why the hell do we need another mall? To consume the world? Then my mind raced to the location of the mall, and the prairie dogs that live there. I had been worried about this colony before, about the strong possibility that the remaining colonies comprising hundreds of prairie dogs would be destroyed for some kind of development. After all, a Lowe’s store, an outlet mall, a housing project, and a tire store had occupied their territory and had already killed thousands of these dogs in the name of “development.” And this was the final solution for the 3,000 to 8,000 remaining burrows: complete annihilation of the prairie dogs for a shopping mall set to cover 170 acres in concrete.
Regular readers of this blog or listeners of Derrick Jensen’s Resistance Radio may remember his interview with Con Slobodchikoff on prairie dog language, in which they discussed their high level of intelligence. Sacrificing these beings for short term profit and another shopping mall should be criminal.
Unfortunately, as we know all too well, money and those who wield it write the laws. There’s probably no chance of saving the habitat for the colony under threat; the best-case scenario is “relocation”, a horrible process of sucking the dogs out of their homes, killing many and splitting up families in the process, and moving them to strange new territory where they may or may not survive. Even implementing this salvaging rescue mission will prove difficult, as few landowners are willing to accept the forced transplants, and if a location can be found, it’ll be another struggle to convince the developer to hold off on construction three months so the prairie dogs can be moved at the least harmful time of year.
If you care about prairie dogs and the other people crushed by the relentless expansion of civilization, if you feel anger or grief or shame, let that guide you to action. Join Deep Green Resistance and the culture of resistance!
In a thematic follow-up to the interview with Culum Brown, Derrick Jensen’s August 17 Resistance Radio episode features Con Slobodchikoff. Slobodchikoff studies Gunnison’s Prairie Dogs as a model for understanding animal language, and shares some delightful and amazing observations on the complexity of their relationships and communication. For example, the prairie dogs can tell each other the equivalent of “Here is a tall thin human walking slowly wearing a blue shirt coming towards us.”
Jensen and Slobodchikoff discuss the reasons for mass die-offs, habitat destruction, and ongoing intentional eradication of prairie dogs, a topic especially heartbreaking (but important) in light of their intelligence and highly developed social structure. They also examine their role improving pastures and prairies as a keystone species in their landbases, a great bonus to their being just plain cute.
The conversation touches on many other subjects, including language in other species, what actually constitutes language, the assumptions and inherent values of science (Slobodchikoff was pressured to deafen young prairie dogs to see how it affected their language development; he refused), and the many ways science and other institutions of civilization reinforce the arrogant myths of human supremacism.