Conservation Committee

Minutes

November 4, 2009

THOSE PRESENT: Linda Batlin, Kirk Cunningham, Jim Gallo, Deirdre Butler and David Pinkow

1. INFORMAL SHOOTING RANGE ISSUES, ALLENSPARK AREA.

David Pinkow is a landowner of a parcel of land close to the intersection of the Peak-to-Peak Highway and Colorado Highway 7. His property lies across SH 7 from an approximately 100-acre piece of National Forest land completely surrounded by private lands, but adjacent to and with access from SH 7. The area has been used occasionally for target practice for several years, but the rate of use has increased greatly in the past year, probably due to restrictions in the shooting area/OHV “sacrifice area” in Lefthand Canyon. Now he claims that the sounds of shooting (including automatic weapon shooting) are load and persistent and stray shots (one the average of one a day) have been reported in his and a number of surrounding properties. He and his neighbors have approached both the Forest Service and the County about the noise and safety problems.

The Forest Service says that it does not have the enforcement personnel to keep problems in check in this area and it does not have the funds to construct some sort of formal shooting area with better noise and safety controls. Recently the FS contracted with the NRA to investigate potential shooting areas in Boulder County; the NRA opined that several areas were potentially useful in principle, including the Allenspark site. The County has said that it is opposed to shooting areas in general and does enforce a County noise ordinance, but it has been hard for Pinkow and his associates to get the Sheriff to do anything (perhaps because some County deputies use the area for target practice!). Kirk said that he had seen some newspaper articles in the last few months indicating that Sen. Mark Udall was trying by appropriation or legislation to get monies to establish shooting ranges. Kirk said that this issue had also come up in other parts of the Arapahoe-Roosevelt National Forest and that some sort of generic solution would be best.

Pinkow and his neighbors may file suit against the Forest Service to have the shooting site declared off-limits. He requested that the Sierra Club support their efforts to do this. However, this is problematic because, as the Forest Service as said, shutting off this site may just spread the use elsewhere. Kirk did say that he would do the following:
* Investigate to see whether the national Sierra Club has any policies in place about target shooting on public lands, to guide our actions in this matter
* Investigate Udall’s apparent effort to fund formal shooting areas
* Write a Club latter to Boulder Ranger District head Christine Walsh to explore the District’s policy with respect to shooting areas and ask her if it would be possible to close this area pending some sort of District-wide solution.

2. PRAIRIE DOG HABITAT ADJACENT TO THE LONGMONT AIRPORT - Deirdre Butler

The prairie dog town adjacent to the Longmont Airport has been established a long time and even has a management plan. The prairie dogs are prevented from accessing the runway by an effective barrier. A group of pilots using the airport has recently complained to the FAA that the prairie dogs attract raptors that threaten air traffic safety. In response to this complaint, several groups, including the Prairie Dog Coalition, have composed a letter to the FAA asking first that the pilots’ group produce actual evidence of problems caused by raptors and second, that the City of Longmont be given time to implement its prairie dog management plan before any animal exterminations take place, as requested by the pilots. Deirdre signed on the IPG to this letter.

3. CITY OF BOULDER URBAN WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT PLAN - Deirdre Butler

This will be the subject of a City Council meeting in February, and will involve chiefly, prairie dog and bear management. Meanwhile, the Open Space and Mountain Parks Grasslands Management Plan is in its final draft form, adopted by the Open Space Board of Trustees. The various ecosystems discussed in that document do not include one for prairie dogs, which Deirdre views as a weakness. Kirk believes that the city needs a whole new way of thinking to come up with a meaningful urban wildlife management plan, since humans have created a very artificial habitat that encourage strange combinations of native and introduced specieis.

4. OPEN SPACE UPDATES - Jim Gallo

West TSA Process. The West TSA caucuses meeting held on 9/15 were a ruckus with the Boulder Mountain Bike Alliance trying to take over all all of the recreational caucus, the neighborhood caucus, and the conservation caucus. The BMA took over many CCG seats designated for other interests. The IPG Sierra Club sent a letter to the OSBoT about their concerns about the process. There was a lengthy discussion and public input about this problem at the October Board of Trustees meeting. Even though 4 of 5 Board members thought the BMA had broken the ground rules, they still seated all the CCG members as elected. Thus, there are 5 or more BMA members seated at the CCG (depending on how the count is done). The Conservation Caucus is made up of approximately 25% BMA members interested in converting the Mountain Parks trail system into mechanized transportation trails. The first CCG meeting was in late October and consisted of introductions, ground rules, and meeting schedules. The neighborhood caucuses need more input from actual neighbors to open space.

Doudy Draw/ Spring Brook Trail Compliance Survey. Initial results suggest that on-trail compliance for dogs, and other regulatory compliance are not where they should be. The remainder of the compliance survey has not been disclosed, but it is assumed that its disclosure will be part of the West TSA CCG process.

Lyons to Boulder Regional Trail. This project, a project of the County’s Transportation Dept. and supported by the Sierra Club) has been cancelled because the North Colorado Water Conservancy District withdrew (allegedly mostly because of objections by landowners along the Canal) a set of arrangements that would have allowed Boulder County to use part of the canal right-of-way for the trail. It was determined that a regional trail using only County roads was undesirable, so the trail proposal has been tabled. Additional regional trails, like the Boulder-to-Longmont (LoBo) Trail are still being worked on.

Betasso Preserve/Benjamin Property Management Plan. Construction of a new trail segment started with the Wildlands Restoration Volunteers restoring damage from existing social trails, and other groups starting the construction of the new trail. Trails will not be open until the summer of 2010.
Walker Ranch Management Plan. Boulder County is starting a review of the existing Walker Ranch Management Plan. At a Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee (POSAC) meeting there was a presentation on natural resources and of an extensive users’ survey in the area. There was not much of an audience, but the Boulder Mountain Bike Alliance discussed trail reroutes to support mountain bikes and a connection to Eldorado Canyon State Park for mountain bikes.

Boulder County Open Space Stakeholders Meeting. Jim went to the meeting in Longmont, and Kirk attended the one in Boulder. There were four staff (including the Director, Ron Stewart) and 4 to 8 members of the public, depending on location. Organizations represented were Friends of Boulder Open Space (FOBOS), Boulder Valley Audubon, Sierra Club, Boulder Area Trails Coalition (BATCO), Boulder Mountain Bike Alliance (BMA), and FIDOS.
The County Open Space Dept.’s budget is down $1.5 million, or about 10%, this year, with more of the same next year. Consequently, next year there will be a 50% cut in seasonal staff and a 50% cut in the capital acquisitions budget. Had it passed, County Issue 1A would have improved the ability of the County to issue bonds for property purchases.
Upcoming issues include:
1) Unified regional trail regulations for extended hours, dog management, and alcohol use for joint trails between the County and cities like Louisville and Lafayette.
2) New cropland policies are being drafted. The BCPOS contact is David Bell (dbell@bouldercounty.org).
3) Boulder County Regional Trail plans, part of the County’s Comprehensive Plan under Transportation. Next segments of interest Coal Creek and Rock Creek, Niwot to Longmont, Superior to Coalton Rd., the St. Vrain River Trail, and the UP line from Erie to Boulder.
4) BCPOS will be doing a phone survey of County residents to better understand the public’s concerns about Open Space issues. Jim feels that the this survey should specifically include those who do not use the Open Space system.

Walden Ponds Wildlife Habitat Area Public Open House, November 16. There will be a second public meeting on this topic November 16th at the Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, 7077 Harvest Rd, in Boulder. Public comments are open until November 21. One of the principal concerns is the reliability of the water supply to maintain the aquatic habitats at Walden Ponds. The website is: http://www.bouldercounty.org/openspace/management_plans/Walden.htm.

Jim mention two other issues not involving open space, which he has been following:
* Rocky Mountain National Park State Highway 7 improvements. Steps to be completed are a public review of the plan and the final document, and an analysis of public comment. This project involves changes to public access in the Libngs Peak and Meeker Park areas.
* Bear Lake Road (RMNP) Reconstruction, Phase 2. The section of Bear Lake Rd. between Beaver Meadows and the existing Park-n-Ride lot is being planned for reconstruction.

Kirk Cunningham
IPG Conservation Chair
303-939-8519 / kmcunnin@juno.com
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