Conservation Committee

Minutes

November 7th 2007

1 - INTRODUCTIONS. Those present were: Deirdre Butler, Todd Sanford, Kirk Cunningham, Wayne Schnell and Bev Baker

2 - WILDLIFE ISSUES – Deirdre Butler

GARBAGE AND BEARS

Deirdre has been active with Sinapu and In Defense of Animals to induce the City of Boulder to make some changes in the way garbage is stored and picked up in order to prevent the creation of “garbage bears,” which usually end up being destroyed by the Division of Wildlife. They have discovered that the City of Durango has a program whereby people with non-compliant garbage disposal get their homes and cars’ pictures on the City’s website, after a mock citation is left with the homeowner. This program has been effective, but is deemed to aggressive for Boulder. Instead, the groups are doing a tagging program using student interns and other volunteers and reporting people violating existing trash ordinances to a city website, which allows such posts to anyone wishing to report city rule violations. Additional volunteers will be needed in the spring when bears come out of hibernation and are looking again for food. One big problem that has been identified is food-related businesses which have large, unsecured dumpsters filled with highly attractive and edible food and even vats of animal fat. The City enforcement staff seem very willing to cooperate with the groups in getting better enforcement, and the City will soon be hiring a staff person to dealing with wildlife issues.

PRAIRIE DOG CONTROL METHODS STUDY

A local activist on prairie dog issues is compiling a list of lethal control methods used on prairie dogs, most of which are inhumane, and some of which (e.g. aluminum phosphide) pose dangers for people of pets frequenting prairie dog towns after the animals are killed, yet are not subject to notification that would protect the public. She is asking the Indian Peaks Group’s assistance in continuing her study and getting it published. Deirdre will look into possible funds for that purpose in the IPG budget.

WILDLIFE SERVICES

This sub-agency of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture kills millions of animals a year, including hundreds of endangered animals, which allegedly cause harm to people or crops. Many of their methods are questionable from a humane perspective. The Sierra Club’s response to the agency’s work might be hampered by the Club’s existing trapping policy, which is fairly vague. Deirdre and others in national Club committees may try to beef up the policy either through Sierra Club Board of Directors action or through a members’ initiative. Todd said that he was not even aware of the existence of the agency and thought the whole issue needed better publicity in Club websites and newsletters.

NEMATODES TO CONTROL PRAIRIE DOG PLAGUE FLEAS?

Recently, it has been discovered that using nematodes (small, worm-like creatures) in prairie dog burrows can infest and kill the fleas that harbor the plague microorganism. Testing this biological insecticide in Boulder may help prevent the recent loss of several colonies on City and County open space.

U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE DECISION ON THE ENDANGERED STATUS OF THE PREBLES JUMPING MOUSE

Recently, the USFAWS has proposed to continue the endangered listing for Prebles mice in Colorado’s Front Range, but not in similar habitat in Wyoming. This proposal is not biologically justified and will result in more pressure on Prebles mice habitats and populations. There is an opportunity now to write the USFAWS to ask them to change their policy. Deirdre will compose an alert that will go out on the Chapter and IPG alerts lists.

3 - NATIONAL FOREST - Todd Sanford

GETTING MORE PEOPLE INVOLVED WITH FOREST MANAGEMENT ISSUES

Recently an individual has come to our attention who has taken a deep, personal interest in Forest Service decisions in the Boulder Ranger District. She has identified several small, but significant proposed actions that the IPG should comment on. We are planning to interact more with her in the future. Some of the issues are:

1) A proposed road through National Forest land to service an inholder in the Lost Lake area around the Hesse Trailhead. The road would widen part of the foot trail that presently goes to Lost Lake.

2) A proposed new road through Forest land to service a land owner who purchased a private parcel adjacent to the railroad track along Colorado 72 and found that the railroad would not grant him access across the tracks. The road would go through significant wildlife habitat.

3) Repair work on the Red Deer Lake dam in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. This will involve heavy equipment and workmen staying overnight at the site.

4) Inadvertant creation of OHV routes in a Forest Service thinning project in the Sugarloaf area. The road was supposed to be small and reclaimed after the project, but it wasn’t and has since become a magnet for off-trail travel.

ABANDONED URANIUM MINES ON OR NEAR PUBLIC LANDS IN BOULDER COUNTY

The recent surge in the market value of uranium ore has started a new surge in applications for uranium mines in Colorado, some of which are on public lands. Meanwhile, mines abandoned in an earlier uranium rush era may be causing pollution problems or may be subject to reopening. The EPA recently published a list of such mines in Colorado, and Todd has been looking at their locations and their relationship to public lands and resources. The Rocky Mountain Chapter has a new activist who will be addressing uranium mining issues, starting with the proposed and hotly contested in-situ uranium mine in the vicinity of Nunn, CO, east of Fort Collins.

4 - PESTICIDES AND WATER QUALITY – Kirk Cunningham

Kirk has been working with a group formed by the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, Citizens for Pesticide Reform, on the issue of spraying for adult mosquitoes to prevent West Nile Fever. This group is advocating larvaciding using a biological control agent and public education about avoidance instead of spraying, because the pesticides used have some important side effects, especially and most acutely on asthmatics. An interesting recent study comparing the mosquito control programs of Fort Collins (spot spraying only plus extensive education) and Loveland (broadcast sprayng of the whole town) showed that Loveland has had consistently more cases of West Nile. The reason is, that people tend not to take personal protection measures when the believe that spraying has solved the problem. A similar situation existing this past mosquito season between Boulder and Longmont: Longmont used spraying more extensively and had more cases.

Regarding water quality, Kirk has been helping the IPG Inner City Outings group do water sampling as part of the Chapter’s program called Water Sentinels. Sampling has begun on Bear Creek at three location and for the parameters e.coli, selenium, copper, total nitrogen and total phosphate.

5 - OPEN SPACE – Wayne Schnell

Wayne mentioned that the House of Representatives had recently passed a bill to reform aspects of the 1872 Mining Law, principally to require the miner to pay royalties on extracted minerals for the first time. The fate of this bill is less certain in the Senate and Bush has threatened to veto it.

On open space matters, Wayne will prepare a summary report of Open Space and Mountain Parks management actions this past year for publication on the IPG web site or in the next Bugle.

6 - FUTURE MEETING SPACE FOR THIS COMMITTEE

It is likely that this meeting space (2260 Baseline) will not be available to us for future meetings, because the Sierra Club office is moving to an as yet unknown location. Hopefully, the new office location will have a conference room, but that remains to be seen. More information as things progress.

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