The 1999 Prairie Dogs Promise from Celestial Seasonings.
“The response we have received from the community, consumers, our neighbors, and wildlife advocates has been both overwhelming and justified. The extent of this response, however, has paled in comparison to the disappointment expressed by the passionate and dedicated employees of Celestial Seasonings. I am deeply sorry…This is an act that Celestial Seasonings should not have done, and will not be involved with from this point forward.”
May 27, 1999 Celestial Seasonings president and CEO Steve Hughes
Links & Resources
The Community Letter
What Celestial Seasonings wrote
to the Community in 1999
Click on the image to read the full text
What is the History Behind this letter and agreement?
In 1999 Celestial Seasonings was caught poisoning prairie dogs on it's property off of Spine Road. Rocky Mountain Animal Defense boycotted Celestial Seasonings. As boycotting and pressure mounted, Celestial Seasonings publicly apologized to the community for their actions and came to an agreement with the boycotters and animal activists (RMAD). The private prairie dog park was seen as a peace offering to the remaining prairie dogs and the local community. The private prairie park has been in place for over twenty years. People from around the world have visited and numerous blog posts about the prairie dogs and private prairie park have been written. Even Celestial Seasonings tours included information on the prairie dogs (before tours were closed due to Covid-19). Signs designating this land as a private prairie park were in place for years (although they were recently removed).
Now, Hains Celestial group as a whole is not doing well financially and has decided they want to sell the land to a developer. There are a few problems with this, but ultimately the community wants to know what happened to the private prairie park that was agreed upon in 1999?
Why Care about Prairie Dogs?
While some people think of prairie dogs as a nuisance, really they are a "keystone" species. Their colonies create islands of habitat that benefit approximately 150+ other species, including bees, snakes, mountain plover, burrowing owl, Ferruginous hawks, swift fox and endangered black-footed ferrets 1. Black-tailed prairie dogs are found on the Great Plains east of the Rocky Mountains from Saskatchewan to Sonora and Chihuahua in Mexico 3. Prairie dogs are quickly disappearing due to development. In Colorado specifically, development alone may account for a 25 percent overall reduction in prairie dog acres 2.
So not only does our environment need them, but our community needs them. Gunbarrel has little land left for open space and prairie dogs, and development is increasing, which makes them both easy targets. People will say that there are other prairie dogs, so who cares about this specific colony, however the population of prairie dogs has decreased by 95% 1, with some estimates that the prairie dog range is only 1% of that in 1900 2. While people and development are certainly important, let's make sure that our environment and animal friends are supported too. Let's start talking about creative solutions to include access to nature in our community. If we continue down the path we are on, with just removing all wildlife and ecosystems that are in our way of building, we are writing our own storybook of The Lorax. Let's create a comprehensive Gunbarrel community plan that includes nature and the prairie dogs.
Citations for articles
2. Humanesociety.org. 2020. [online] Available at: <http://www.humanesociety.org/sites/default/files/archive/assets/pdfs/wildlife/prairie_dog/decline-of-the-shortgrass-prairie.pdf> [Accessed 16 June 2020].
3. Smithsonian's National Zoo. 2020. Black-Tailed Prairie Dog. [online] Available at: <https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/black-tailed-prairie-dog> [Accessed 16 June 2020].