Government attorneys are defending federal protections for Utah prairie dogs after 10 states stepped into the case in favor of a ruling that animal activists say could undermine the Endangered Species Act.
Federal lawyers are asking an appeals court to overturn an unusual ruling striking down prairie dog protections near the Utah town of Cedar City.
Residents say the animals are taking over their town, though animal activists countered Thursday that those concerns are overblown.
U.S. District Judge Dee Benson ruled last year that federal authorities can't regulate the animals found only in Utah, but federal lawyers say most of the protected animals in the U.S. are only found in one state.
Ten states have entered the case in support of Benson's decision: Utah, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming and Michigan.