Conservation Committee

Minutes

September 2 2009

THOSE PRESENT: Deirdre Butler, Kirk Cunningham, Jim Gallo and Todd Sanford

1. OPEN SPACE – Jim Gallo

Jim reviewed some of the current Open Space management issues:

West TSA Process

The next public meeting in this process for deciding uses in Boulder’s mountain backdrop is a very important one for the public that cares about management issues. It will be held from 6 to 9 PM at the East Boulder Community Center, on 55th St. The purpose of this meeting is to elect people to represent the various open space constituencies for West TSA Caucus meetings, to be held over the next year. These meetings will take up 20 hours per month, and there will be some residence requirements for participants. Most importantly, any position finally up for approval by the Caucus can be vetoed by ONE participant. On this basis, it is not clear that the process will be successful in making useful recommendations to the Open Space Board of Trustees and to the City Council. Meetings will be open. Candidates will present themselves for Caucus election, AND ONLY THOSE PRESENT AT THE MEETING CAN VOTE FOR THOSE REPRESENTATIVES.

The “user group” categories are:

We want to make sure that as many Sierra Club members as possible concerned about protecting open space values attend the meeting and vote.

Grasslands Ecosystem Management Plan

The Open Space Board of Trustees has approved this Plan at their 8/12/09 meeting. Preservation groups like Friends of Boulder Open Space supported the Plan.

Doudy Draw: Spring Brook Trail Compliance Survey

This new trail has now been opened to the public, and in the last months the city staff have been surveying how well users obey trail rules. Though the survey numbers are low and need to be followed up with further surveys on both compliance and conflicts to get more data, the picture does not look good. Assuming that 90% compliance with staying on the trail is considered adequate, neither people with dogs or on horseback met that goal. Dog owners were not in compliance with any of the threshold goals they were supposed to meet. For example, the trail rules require dogs to be on leash at all times, but 40% were off leash. 13% of trail users with dogs chose to go onto a portion of the trail that is specifically signed to exclude them.

Lyons to Boulder Regional Trail

The Sierra Club originally supported this trail as part of the County’s “Trails and Transit” tax a couple years ago. At that time, the plan was to use the service road for the Feeder Canal as the trail. However, recently, the Northern Conservancy Water District (the Canal owner) has opposed use of their right-of-way corridor for this purpose. The County had proposed constructing a new 8-foot wide trail parallel to the Canal service road ,but uphill of it so that any pollution from trail users could be collected in a ditch before reaching the Canal. This new trail proposal began to draw fire from neighboring landowners because it would require the condemnation of some stretches of private property to build the alternative trail. Those landowners also claimed that some important wildlife habitat would also be compromised. Even though the new trail would not be an Open Space Department project, the Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee took a tour of it recently. The Transportation Dept. was supposed to come out with a new trail proposal taking various objections into consideration, the fundamental opposition of the Northern Conservancy District may kill this whole project, since on-road bike trails would hardly be as safe and interesting as the Canal trail would have been.

Betasso Preserve/Benjamin Property Management Plan

The Board of County Commissioners approved the plan at a public hearing on 6/2/09, after a lengthy public process. The alternating days of use for bikes and peds are retained, and not all the Benjamin property was open to new trails. Preservation groups think the Plan is “OK”, but there is a provision for bike access from Four Mile Canyon Rd. that might prove troublesome in the future, since traffic on that road is heavy and no parking at the trailhead is provided.

Rocky Mountain National Park Highway 7 Improvements

This topic is not strictly in Jim’s purview, but he has been following it for his own interest. The Park is planning to make some major changes in roads and parking at the Long’s Peak and Meeker Park access points. The next step is the publication of an environmental study document and analysis of public comment. There are no more public meetings planned.

2. WILDERNESS AND FOREST MANAGEMENT – Todd Sanford

Todd reports no new activity on National Forest management matters. On a statewide basis, he is following wilderness issue for the Rocky Mountain Chapter. Two proposals are particularly actve now:

San Juan Wilderness Bill

This has been introduced in the House of Representatives by John Salazar. It has lots of local, including environmental group, support, and has very few conflicts, though it does have a few strange boundary adjustments to satisfy some SW Colorado counties which do not want more wilderness within their boundaries. The San Juan Citizens Alliance is the lead environmental group on this effort.

Hidden Gems Wilderness Bill (Proposed)

This proposed bill has 60 separate parcels in the White River National Forest along the I-70 corridor. The proposal has proven to be very controversial with mountain bike and OHV groups, but is supported within the environmental community, including the Sierra Club.

Expansion Proposal for the Service Creek Wilderness (Proposed)

Todd has been following this since he was contacted by a local group which is supposedly pushing it. Apparently, the local National Forest Ranger District in the Steamboat Springs area is not opposed to this expansion. No new news about it.

Rollins Pass Redevelopment, James Peak Wilderness

Gilpin County has been making noises for years about reconstructing the Needles Eye Tunnel and associated railroad trestles to allow car passage, as a tourist draw. Unfortunately for them, the cost of reconstruction is very high and Boulder County, which would need to agree with project and help fund it because it is within their boundaries, is not interested. A knowledgeable Forest Ranger recently told Todd that the project was going nowhere.

3. WILDLIFE – Deirdre Butler

Deirdre said that nothing had been happening in the last two months, but the IPG did get a communication from Boulder Councilman Ken Wilson that the city would be looking at prairie dog an bear management later this fall and would be welcoming public input. Recently, the endangered status of leopard frogs and mountain plover has been playing a role in grasslands issues. Mountain plover and other species that depend on prairie dogs for food or shelter are impinging on the isue of how to manage prairie dogs on open space.

Deirdre also announced that the IPG is planning a new volunteer orientation party on October 15th, which will be an opportunity for issue folks to seek some volunteer assistance. More on this as it gets better organized.

Kirk Cunningham, IPG Conservation Chair
303-939-8519 / kmcunnin@juno.com
For additional information, or to get involved