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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The deadline to weigh in on a new federal plan that would loosen contentious endangered-species protections for Utah prairie dogs is looming.

The public-comment period closes Thursday on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plan that would allow prairie dogs to be killed or removed from private property more often.

Comments can be submitted on or mailed to the fish and wildlife service headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia.

The agency has said the plan will preserve the prairie-dog numbers while helping southern Utah residents. A group of Cedar City residents said in a lawsuit the regulations went too far and allowed the creatures to burrow into their subdivisions and playgrounds.

But the group Friends of Animals says the new federal plan is “essentially a death warrant” for the creatures.