Conservation Committee

Minutes

December 5 2007

THOSE PRESENT: Deirdre Butler, Kirk Cunningham, Bev Baker, and Todd Sanford

1. NATIONAL FORESTS - Todd Sanford

The protection of the Roan Plateau has been left out of the Energy Bill in Congress because of defects in the Senate version of the bill. The Roan Plateau protection may be the subject of a separate bill. It is not certain how the Governor will weigh in on this subject.

The Rocky Mountain National Park wilderness bill is still in the works

The Rocky Mountain Chapter has now established a listserve for National Forest issues, RMC-CONS-FORESTS. Anyone interested in these issues and who would like to subscribe to the listserve, should send an email to Todd at TJSanfo@yahoo.com

2. WILDLIFE - Deirdre Butler

Deirdre attended the 11/28 city Open Space Dept. meeting on the Grasslands Ecosystem Management Plan. 15-20 people were there, only 6 of whom were citizens, the rest city staff. The basic structure of the Plan, i.e. what sort of grassland categories would be used, was determined at a meeting of grasslands scientists convened by the city last winter. Deirdre wanted to know who they were and whether they produced a separate report that could be viewed. Kirk will contact Steve Jones of Audubon about this, since he may have been one of the attendees.

The scientists’ committee identify eight types of grasslands on the city’s 24,000 acres of open space (plus additional acres of conservation easements) that could be identified as such. Most of the acreage was east of Broadway. One of the grassland types was specifically identified as prairie dog habitat. These areas appeared to be scattered and poor in quality. The chapter in the draft Plan on this grassland type seemed to be problematic to Deirdre in several ways. First, the prairie dogs themselves did not seem to be accorded as much importance as the species associated with them (e.g. burrowing owls) that may be endangered. In other words, if the associated species were not present, then the quality of the prairie dog habitat was considered to be low, even if associated species had not yet occupied the prairee dog town or if they had not been observed yet. Second, even though prairie dogs were found on other grassland types, “the mere presence of prairie dogs may not justify their protection.”

Deirdre and activists from other groups (e.g. RMAD) will be meeting with Mark Gershman of the Open Space Dept. on December 12th to discuss the draft Grassland Management Plan. RMAD has had a research project on prairie dogs on Open Space in the past. Deirdre fears that the City Council, which has to approve any final Plan, does not sufficiently understand the issues and may rubber-stamp it. She is hoping to approach Lisa Morzel as one Council member who may have sufficient scientific background to understand their point of view.

Kirk mentioned that, in addition to prairie dogs, the city’s treatment of weed infestations in the Plan had to be examined carefully, since there has been a tendency in the past to rely too heavily on herbicide application instead of more biological approaches.

* The Conservation Forum of the Colorado Division of Wildlife is ongoing. Deirdre and others believe that is not as effective for dealing with non-game wildlife management as the previous advisory group. The new Director of the Division of Wildlife is Tom Remington, a CDOW veteran who has risen through the ranks with a history of big game management and reputedly a hot temper. It’s not known how well the environmental community will interact with him.

3. OPEN SPACE.

Bev Baker asked about the status of the proposed new trails on the Hogan/El Dorado open space. At the last meeting, our Open Space Chair Wayne Schnell said that he was preparing a summary document on the status of open space management issues (including this question) that he would bring to the January Conservation Committee meeting.

4. NEXT MEETING

The next meeting of this Committee will be January 9th, not January 2nd. The place is still uncertain, so if anyone knows of a modest-sized space for our meetings that is free, let me know. Perhaps there are some coffee shops that would work.

Kirk Cunningham, Conservation Chair
(303) 939-8519
kmcunnin@juno.com