Tag Archive for Boulder County Commissioners

Commissioners rate truck traffic above people

Want to get an idea about the scale of industrialization of Boulder County?

In Colorado, trucks haul fluids more than 100 miles one-way into Utah on Interstate 70 (where the speed limit is 75 mph) to a large open pit facility. Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Photo courtesy of TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Let’s take a look at truck traffic alone. According to the recent “Boulder County Oil and Gas Roadway Impact Study” presented to the Boulder County Commissioners, each well fracked in Boulder County would take about 2,206 truck trips to complete. Given the commissioners’ estimate that up to 1,800 wells are conceivable in Boulder County, this equates to 3,970,800 truck trips to complete these wells. If we assume the average tractor-trailer length to be 70 feet, this gives a perspective on the scope of the industrialization being considered.

Given the report and county’s numbers, the resulting line of trucks would span from New York to Los Angeles and back over 10 times. Of course the study assumes the wells are fracked only once. In reality wells can be fracked up to 18 times. Can you imagine, from truck traffic alone, what the sky above Boulder County might look like to someone from on top of the Flatirons by the end of this process?

The study does not calculate the costs to people. What would the rise in cases of asthma cost due to ozone? What are the total costs to public and environmental health associated with the full process of gas and oil operations? It is clear that the Boulder County Commissioners need to take as much consideration into the human impacts of industrialization as they do roads. For a real picture of what this would mean we would have to include complete health impact studies and baseline air and water quality studies. For a county whose oil and gas permit moratorium expires on June 10, it sure seems like there is a lot of homework to be done.

Boulder County succumbs to bullying

Vote endangers public's health and property and puts Democracy at risk.

GARY WOCKNER is the  Colorado Program Director for Clean Water Action, Fort Collins

The environmental community — and our organization, Clean Water Action — was extremely disappointed to see the Boulder County commissioners cave in to the oil and gas industry. The commissioners could have extended the moratorium on drilling and fracking and spared the toxic pollution and trespass that this rogue industry will now splatter across Boulder County.

Fracking causes air and water pollution, has been shown to increase cancer risks, and reeks havoc on nearby homes and families. In addition, methane escaping from fracking operations and the burning of natural gas is a significant contributor to climate change.

Shame on the commissioners for not protecting their citizens. Their vote endangers the public’s health and property and further puts our Democracy at risk.

DSC_0395_EliseJonesHickenlooper 2That said, we were happy to see Commissioner Elise Jones try to persuade the other two commissioners to extend the moratorium. Commissioner Jones’ grit and leadership was apparent and appreciated a few weeks ago when she took on (and beat!) Gov. John Hickenlooper in the fracking debate at the University of Denver. And again, Commissioner Jones stood up for the publi when she supported the extension of the moratorium.

Gov. Hickenlooper is a bully, and the oil and gas industry is an even bigger bully with billions of dollars. Commissioner Jones: Please keep standing up to these bullies, and please keep speaking out against the frack attack coming into Boulder County.

Fracking protests: justified and necessary

Editor’s Note: The following OpEd, which appeared in the Longmont Times-Call on December 11, 2012, is reprinted with the author’s permission. In today’s Boulder Daily Camera, Wendy Wiedenbeck, “hired gun” spokesperson for Encana, offered the usual oil and gas industry falsehoods. However, she outdid herself with inflammatory accusations and hysteria. FRL has had several conversations with those who were in attendance at the Boulder County Commissioners’ meeting on December 4, 2012, participants and non-participants in the protest. Ms. Wiedenbeck has intentionally interpreted frustration, fear and anger at her company as a threat to her personal safety. This is propaganda of the worst sort. She has destroyed her credibility, if she had any, as well as Encana’s, if it had any, in one fell swoop. Expect a tsunami of propaganda in the months (perhaps years) to come as the industry fights for it’s state/nation-sponsored privilege to threaten the health of citizens, in Longmont, in Colorado, and around the nation.


1806885996_1d29879109I attended the Boulder County commissioners’ meeting last Tuesday at the Boulder County Courthouse. I was there to put pressure on the commissioners to strengthen the proposed new oil and gas regulations, extend the moratorium to allow time to adequately implement the new regulations, and to consider some way to enact a ban on fracking in our county. I was not, however, a part of the disruptive protests you may have read about or seen on the news.

I’d like to make a few comments about this, though, from the perspective of someone who has been learning about hydraulic fracturing and taking an active stance against it this past year.

First, while I don’t condone some of the hostile actions taken by a few of those involved on Dec. 4, I don’t condemn the intentions and the reasons behind such actions. While some of the disruptions came from people who are not very well informed about the work that has been done by the Planning Commission, the county commissioners and the county staff to try to lay the foundation for better regulations that might eventually help lead to a countywide ban, some of those involved were people who are deeply concerned about the health of their own families, and they are coming from a place of fear, anger and frustration. Fracking is a dangerous heavy industrial process where toxic spills and water contamination are frequent. And it uses vast quantities of water at a time when we are in a serious drought with no relief in sight.

If allowed to continue to steamroll its way through our county, our state and beyond, it will have such a serious impact on climate change that we will reach the tipping point where we can’t undo the damage to the planet within as little as 15 years. And yet our state laws make it nearly impossible for a local community to control whether, when, how or where it gets fracked. While Longmont’s residents were able to vote to ban fracking, that may still be challenged. Boulder County does not have the ability to vote on such a ban at this point.

So I share the frustration and anger about the state of the earth and the sad state of our government. And I recognize that these strong emotions and the passion behind them can and need to be expressed productively and can potentially effect great change. At the same time, there are instances when hostile behaviors and approaches can cause the intended message to get lost and the overall effectiveness of the movement to be undermined. Many of us are working on this issue from a variety of different angles, and most of us are doing it with civility and respect of our fellow citizens.

I encourage anyone who has up to this point remained uninvolved and uninformed to step up your awareness and involvement. There are many good references out there to help you understand the seriousness of this issue and how it will affect every one of us. For starters, if you haven’t already done so, watch the movie “Gasland.” Then, when it premiers later this month, go see Matt Damon’s “Promised Land.” Visit http://environmentcolorado.org/reports/coc/report-costs-fracking for a good overview of the costs of fracking and the environmental damage it is causing. The facts you will begin to uncover will help you understand the fear and frustration that is driving some of the behavior that may be hard to condone, but is based on a real threat to our community and our planet and certainly warrants such strong emotions and concern.

Impacts of Declining Prairie Dog Populations on Associated Wildlife Species in Boulder County

Stephen Jones of the Boulder County Audubon Society has written a compelling report documenting the impact of prairie dog habitat loss on associated species in Boulder County. This report was presented to the Boulder County Commissioners and the Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee for their consideration during the review and update of the county’s prairie dog management plan.

Impacts of Declining Prairie Dog Populations on Associated Wildlife Species in Boulder County

Stephen Jones, Boulder County Audubon Society

At least ten bird and mammal species depend directly on prairie dog colonies for their survival: ferruginous hawk, golden eagle, mountain plover, burrowing owl, horned lark, black-footed ferret, American badger, swift fox, deer mouse, and grasshopper mouse (Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks 2011, Great Plains Restoration Council 2011). At least nine of these species occurred historically in Boulder County, and at least eight continue to occur within the county (Boulder County Comprehensive Plan, Environmental Resources Element 2011; Hallock and Jones 2011).

Some of these prairie dog-dependent species, including ferruginous hawk, golden eagle, black-footed ferret, and American badger, prey on prairie dogs. Others, including black-footed ferret, burrowing owl, and mountain plover, nest or den in and around prairie dog colonies. Below, we profile six of these species for which at least some local population data are available. Federal, State, U. S. Forest Service, and Boulder County status of each profiled species (Hallock and Jones 2010) is given in parentheses.

Ferruginous Hawk (State special concern, USFS sensitive, Boulder County watch-listed).

This largest of North American hawks preys primarily on mid-sized rodents and lagomorphs, including cottontails, prairie dogs, and jackrabbits (Bechard and Josef 1995; Cook, Cartron, and Polechla 2003). Though ferruginous hawks have not been documented nesting in Boulder County (Hallock and Jones 2010), they reside here in winter, gathering around active prairie dog colonies (Boulder County Audubon Society 1979-2011; Jones 1989; Gietzen, Jones, and McKee 1996). North American nesting populations appear to be stable (Sauer, Hines, and Fallon 2008). However, destruction of native prairies and sagebrush uplands threatens nesting populations in some areas (Bechard and Josef 1995).

Boulder County Nature Association wintering raptor surveys conducted from 1983-2011 have documented a strong correlation between numbers of prairie dogs adjacent to survey routes and numbers of ferruginous hawks observed (Boulder County Nature Association 2011; Gietzen, Jones, and McKee 1996; Jones 1989). Other recent studies have documented a similar relationship in areas of Arizona (Cook, Cartron, and Poleshla 2003).

From 1983-1995, Boulder County ferruginous hawk populations fell sharply after sylvatic plague epizootics killed large numbers of prairie dogs, then rose gradually as prairie dog numbers recovered. These trends are clearly reflected in numbers of ferruginous hawks seen along the Boulder Reservoir survey route, which was driven annually from 1983-84 to 2010-11. (Figure 1). Widespread plague epizootics struck prairie dog colonies within this area in 1987-8 and 1993-4.

Figure 1. Mean numbers of Buteos observed along Boulder Reservoir survey route, 1984-2008.

Since 1993 numbers of wintering ferruginous hawks have declined steadily and sharply throughout the county. These hawks have disappeared from areas where prairie dog colonies have been eliminated through poisoning or urban development, as well as from open space properties where prairie dog numbers have been reduced by poisoning or plague. (Boulder County Nature Association 2011, Gietzen, Jones, and McKee 1996; Figure 2).

Figure 2. Mean number of ferruginous hawks observed per km along five Boulder County wintering raptor survey routes, 1990-2011.

Since Boulder County has no incentives in place to encourage preservation of prairie dog colonies on private lands, and open lands on the plains continue to be lost to urban development, loss of prairie dog colonies on private lands is bound to continue. As remaining colonies on private lands are poisoned or plowed under, colonies on public lands will become increasingly more critical for sustaining wintering ferruginous hawk populations. The sharp decline in ferruginous hawk numbers throughout the county from 1992 to 2011 (see Figure 2) suggests that prairie dog densities have fallen below critical levels needed to sustain these open-country hawks.

Golden Eagle (Federal protected, Boulder County isolated and restricted)

Golden eagles also prey on mid-sized rodents and lagomorphs, especially cottontails, prairie dogs, ground squirrels, and jackrabbits (DeLong 2004, Jollie 1943). A 1954 Boulder County study (D’Ostilio 1954) determined that cottontails and prairie dogs were the primary prey in active golden eagle nests.

Golden eagles nest in 15-20 documented territories in the foothills and mountains of Boulder County, and nesting populations appear to be stable (Lederer and Figgs 2011). However, Boulder County Nature Association wintering raptor surveys have documented a significant decline in wintering golden eagle numbers since 2002 (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Mean number of golden eagles observed per km along five Boulder County wintering raptor survey routes, 1990-2011.

Numbers of observed golden eagles have declined sharply along three survey routes: Boulder Reservoir, Rabbit Mountain South, and Rabbit Mountain North. Along each of these routes, wintering golden eagles have abandoned areas of mixed private and public lands where prairie dog colonies have been poisoned or have disappeared as a result of plague. From 2004-2011, the number of acres of Boulder County Parks and Open Space land occupied by prairie dogs decreased from 4010 to 1523 (Boulder County Parks and Open Space 2011). We believe that this decrease, combined with the elimination of many prairie dog colonies on private land, has contributed to the decline in numbers of observed wintering golden eagles.

County staff have asserted that this ongoing decline in wintering golden eagles may result from increased territoriality of nesting pairs in Boulder County. This assertion seems flawed on two accounts. First, golden eagle nesting territories are in the foothills and mountains, whereas their wintering areas are on the plains. Second, there is no evidence that the number of nesting pairs in Boulder County has increased; the recent discovery of previously undocumented nesting territories likely stems from an increase in observer effort, particularly among City of Boulder and Boulder County Parks and open space staff (See Lederer 2011).

However, wintering hunting success of golden eagles does influence their nesting success. Steenhof et al. (1997) reported a positive correlation between prey abundance during winter and reproductive success during the following spring and summer in southwestern Idaho. In a Scottish study, winter prey abundance correlated positively with golden eagle nesting density during the following season (Watson et al. 1992).

We believe that the recent decline in wintering golden eagle numbers throughout Boulder County reflects the same prairie dog population-raptor population relationship we have documented for ferruginous hawks. Loss of prairie habitat through urban development, along with elimination and fragmentation of individual prairie dog colonies and large prairie dog colony complexes, appears to be driving wintering golden eagles out of the county.

Mountain Plover (Federal proposed threatened, State special concern, USFS sensitive, Boulder County extirpated)

Mountain plovers typically nest and forage in patches of bare ground within shortgrass prairies (Kingery 1998, Knopf 2006). Historically, intensive grazing by bison and by prairie dogs provided areas of disturbed ground where these upland shorebirds could thrive (Knopf 2008; Knowles, Stoner, and Gieb 1982). In a Montana study, mountain plovers demonstrated high fidelity to prairie dog colony nesting sites, refusing to leave the boundaries of these colonies even when chased by researchers (Knowles, Stoner, and Gieb 1982). In another Montana study, mountain plover population trends closely matched prairie dog population trends (Dinsmore, White, and Knopf 2005).

Boulder County lies on the western edge of the mountain plover’s current high plains breeding range (Kingery 1998). Only a single nesting report exists for Boulder County, from naturalist Denis Gale in 1886 (Alexander 1937). It’s possible that reduced grazing by ungulates and elimination of large prairie dog colony complexes have rendered the grasslands of Boulder County inhospitable to nesting plovers.

Nevertheless, potential nesting habitat does exist in eastern Boulder County. Creation and maintenance of extensive prairie dog colony complexes in areas such as Rabbit Mountain and the grasslands in and around Dowe Flats could eventually lead to re-establishment of nesting mountain plovers within the county.

Burrowing Owl (State threatened, USFS sensitive, Boulder County isolated and restricted).

Burrowing Owl
Photo Courtesy of Pam Wanek

In eastern Colorado, burrowing owls nest predominately in prairie dog colonies, laying their eggs in abandoned prairie dog burrows (Haug, E. A.; Milsap, B. A. and Martell, M. S. 1993; Kingery 1998). These little owls were considered “abundant” in Boulder County prior to 1910 (Henderson 1908, Betts 1913). By the mid-1980s, this species was listed as “rare and declining” in the Boulder County Comprehensive Plan, and during 2005-11, only 3-10 pairs were documented nesting each year within the county (Hallock and Jones 2011). During the 2011 nesting season, 50 volunteers surveyed nearly every Boulder County Parks and Open Space prairie dog colony at least 4 times for burrowing owls and found only 3 nesting pairs (Boulder County Parks and Open Space, unpublished data).

Productivity of Boulder County nests appears low, averaging only about 2 observed young per nest throughout the 1990s and 2000s (Hallock and Jones 2011, Jones and Mahoney 2003). This compares with mean fledge rates of 4 or more per nest in several western Great Plains study areas (Johnsgard 2002). We believe that predation by urban-adapted raptors and carnivores is the likely cause of this low productivity. Since most of our prairie dog colonies are confined by roads, subdivisions, or irrigated fields and most also contain trees or power poles that serve as perches for hunting raptors, our burrowing owls are particularly vulnerable to predation by coyotes, foxes, domestic cats and dogs, great horned owls, and prairie falcons.

If Boulder County is to serve as a viable nesting area for burrowing owls, and not as a habitat “sink” as it probably does now, we will need to create complexes of large prairie dog colonies lying within expanses of relatively natural grasslands. The Rabbit Mountain area, Rock Creek Farm Open Space west of Broomfield, and the southern grasslands/Rocky Flats area offer opportunities for re-creating sustainable burrowing owl habitat.

Black-footed Ferret (Federal endangered, State endangered, Boulder County extirpated)

Black-footed ferrets are medium-sized mustelids that once occupied much of the western plains and Intermountain West, always in association with prairie dogs (Fitzgerald, Meaney, and Armstrong 2011; U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2011). Boulder County lies in the heart of their historic range (U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2011).

Elimination of prairie dog colonies throughout the West, along with introduction of alien diseases, resulted in the apparent extinction of this species during the twentieth century (U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2011). In 1964 a small population was discovered in South Dakota, and a subsequent captive breeding program failed. In 1981 a second small population was discovered in Meeteetse, Wyoming. A subsequent captive breeding and reintroduction program has resulted in the current wild population of approximately 750 ferrets in two dozen relocation sites in Chihuahua, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, South Dakota, Montana, and Saskatchewan (U. S Fish and Wildlife Service 2011; Black-footed Ferret Recovery Program website 2011).

Black-tailed Prairie Dogs

Boulder County does not currently contain sufficiently large prairie dog colony complexes to qualify as a ferret reintroduction site. In addition, the frequent incidence of sylvatic plague in Boulder County precludes reintroduction under current federal guidelines.

However, guidelines are changing; recently, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service has begun reviewing potential relocation sites that are just a few thousand acres in extent. The Rocky Flats/southern grasslands area of Boulder County, which is mostly protected under Boulder City, Boulder County, or federal ownership, could eventually serve as a ferret reintroduction site. Returning black-footed ferrets to Boulder County would help create natural controls on prairie dog populations, since a single adult ferret will consume as many as 100 prairie dogs per year (Fitzgerald, Meaney, and Armstrong 2011). It would also contribute substantially to recovery of a Federal endangered species.

Historically, some open space agencies have neglected or barely mentioned locally extirpated species in grassland management plans. We suggest that future Boulder County grassland plans include detailed information about the conditions that need to be created to facilitate black-footed ferret recovery.

American Badger (Boulder County special concern, endangered in Canada)

American badgers occupy a variety of habitats in Boulder County, from the plains to the Alpine (Fitzgerald, Meaney, and Armstrong 2011; Carron Meaney pers. comm.). On the plains, these badgers frequently prey on prairie dogs and sometimes den in prairie dog colonies (Goodrich and Buskirk 1998, Fitzgerald, Meaney, and Armstrong 2011). In a Wyoming study, prairie dogs occurred in 57% of stomach and fecal samples from female American badgers (Goodrich and Buskirk 1998).

Longtime Boulder County residents comment on the recent paucity of badger sightings in Boulder County (Carron Meaney pers. comm.). From 2002-11, no American badger observations were reported to the Boulder County Audubon Monthly Wildlife Inventory, while contributors reported 519 coyotes, 224 red foxes, 7 gray foxes, 33 bobcats, 2 long-tailed weasels, 1 short-tailed weasel, 2 mink, and 1 river otter (Boulder County Audubon Society 1979-2011). The Boulder County Wildlife Inventory focuses primarily on birds, but participants also report incidental observations of mammals and other wildlife. The absence of any badger reports during this 10-year period seems worthy of concern.

We recommend that Boulder County Parks and Open Space initiate a long-term study of American badger populations on the plains of Boulder County. We see their apparent decline in numbers as yet another indication that the prairie dog/grassland ecosystem that once supported a diverse assemblage of birds and mammals is collapsing in Boulder County.

Why Should We Assume Responsibility for Preserving Prairie Dog Colonies and Their Associated Wildlife Species?

We live in an urbanizing county, and we sometimes hear local wildlife managers say it’s just not possible for us to maintain suitable habitat for all the wildlife species native to our area. This responsibility, they argue, should fall on more rural areas. Unfortunately, there are few government entities in northeastern Colorado working actively to protect prairie dog habitat. In the Pawnee National Grassland, prairie dog colonies comprise less than 0.5% of the total grassland acreage (Prairie Dog Coalition 2011). Counties east of Boulder County have virtually no procedures in place to protect prairie dog habitat.

Admittedly, we are limited by the extent of our protected grasslands. But we live in one of the wealthiest counties in the world, with nearly 50% of its land protected as national forests, parks, or open space. If we can’t preserve our native fauna, who can? From the early 1980s, Boulder County has pursued a goal, reflected in the Environmental Resources Element of its Comprehensive Plan, of preserving native wildlife species within the county. We trust this effort will continue, with particular focus on prairie dog colonies and their associated wildlife populations.

We also trust that Boulder County will actively implement its authority, granted under the 1034 Local Government Land-Use Control Enabling Act, to “[protect] lands from activities which would cause immediate or foreseeable material damage to significant wildlife habitat and would endanger a wildlife species.”

Finally, we thank Boulder County Parks and Open Space staff and the Boulder County Commissioners for their longstanding support of native ecosystem restoration and conservation of native wildlife species throughout the county.

Literature Cited

Alexander, G. 1937. The birds of Boulder County, Colorado. University of Colorado Studies, 24 (2).

Bechard, M. J. and J. A. Schultz. 1995. Ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis). In The Birds of North America, no. 172 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA and The American Ornithologist’s Union, Washington, D. C..

Betts, N. 1913. The birds of Boulder County, Colorado. University of Colorado Studies 10:177-232.

Black-footed Ferret Recovery Program website: http://www.blackfootedferret.org/

Boulder County Audubon Society. 1979-2011. Monthly wildlife inventories. Unpublished data available at www.boulderaudubon.org.

Boulder County Government. 2011. Boulder County Comprehensive Plan, Environmental Resources Element. http://www.bouldercounty.org/government/pages/bccp.aspx

Boulder County Nature Association. 2011. Wintering raptor survey route data and graphs. Unpublished data, available at www.bcna.org.

Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks. 2011. Prairie dogs and the ecosystem. http://www.bouldercolorado.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1690&Itemid=1606

Cook, Rosamonde R., Jean-Luc Cartron, and Paul Polechla Jr. 2003. The importance of prairie dogs to nesting ferruginous hawks in grassland ecosystems. Wildlife Society Bulletin 31:4.

DeLong, J.P. 2004. Effects of management practice on grassland birds: golden eagle. Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Ctr., Jamestown, ND. 22 pages. http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/literatr/grassland.

Dinsmore, S. J., G. C. White, and F. L. Knopf. 2005. Mountain plover population responses to black-tailed prairie dogs in Montana. Journal of Wildlife Management 69 (4).

D’Ostilio, D. O. 1954. Nesting status and food of the golden eagle in northern Colorado. M. A. thesis, University of Colorado, Boulder.

Eads, D. A. and D. E. Biggins. 2008. Aboveground predation by an American badger (Taxidea taxus) on black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus). Western North American Naturalist 68 (3): 396-401.

Fitzgerald, J.P., Carron Meaney, and David Armstrong. 2011. Mammals of Colorado. Denver Museum of Natural History and University Press of Colorado.

Gietzen, Randal, Stephen R Jones, and Richard J McKee. Hawks, eagles, and prairie dogs: population trends of wintering raptors in Boulder County, 1983-1996. Journal of the Colorado Field Ornithologists 31:2.

Goodrich, J. M. and S. W. Buskirk. 1998. Spacing and ecology of North American badgers in a prairie dog complex. Journal of Mammalogy 79 (1): 171-79.

Great Plains Restoration Council. 2011. Prairie dogs and the ecosystem.
http://gprc.org/research/prairie-dogs-the-truth/prairie-dogs-and-soil-impacts/.

Hallock, Dave and Stephen Jones. 2010. Boulder County avian species of special concern. Boulder County Nature Association, PO Box 493, Boulder, CO 80306.

Haug, E. A.; Milsap, B. A. and Martell, M. S. 1993. In The Birds of North America (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA and The American Ornithologist’s Union, Washington, D. C..

Henderson, J. 1908. An annotated list of the birds of Boulder County, Colorado. University of Colorado Studies 6:220-42.

Johnsgard, Paul. 1990. Hawks, eagles, and falcons of North America. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D. C.

Johnsgard, Paul. 2002. Owls of North America. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D. C.

Jollie, M. T. 1943. The golden eagle: its life history, behavior and ecology. PhD thesis, University of Colorado, Boulder.

Jones, Stephen. 1989. Populations and prey selection of wintering raptors in Boulder County, Colorado. Proceedings 11th North American Prairie Conference.

Jones, Stephen, and Linda Mahoney. 2003. Owls of Boulder County. Boulder County Nature Association, PO Box 493, Boulder, CO 80306.

Jones, Stephen. 2011. Boulder Reservoir 2011 Avian Species of Special Concern Monitoring Report. Boulder Parks and Recreation Department, unpublished report.

Kingery, Hugh, ed. 1998. Colorado breeding bird atlas. Colorado Bird Atlas Partnership, Denver.

Knopf, F. L. Mountain plover. 2006. In The Birds of North America (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA and The American Ornithologist’s Union, Washington, D. C..

Knopf, F. L. 2008. Mountain plover studies, Pawnee National Grassland, 1986-2007. Colorado Division of Wildlife, 6060 Broadway, Denver Colorado.

Knowles, C. J., C. J. Stoner, and S. P. Gieb. 1982. Selective use of black-tailed prairie dog towns by mountain plovers. Condor 84:71-74.

Lederer, Nancy, and Michael Figgs. 2011. Cliff-Nesting raptors in the northern Front Range: 2010 status report. Boulder County Nature Association, PO Box 493, Boulder, CO 80306.

Massachusetts Audubon Society. 2008. Managing Large Grasslands for Grassland Birds. http://www.massaudubon.org/Birds_and_Birding/grassland/large.php

Natural Resources Conservation Service. 1999. Grassland birds. Fish and Wildlife Habitat Management Leaflet, No. 8.

Prairie Dog Coalition. 2011. Life of the grasslands: Pawnee National Grassland. http://www.prairiedogcoalition.org/coalition-efforts.php

Sauer, Hines, and Fallon. 2008. The North American breeding bird survey, results and analysis, 1966-2007. Version 5.15.2008. USGS Pawtuxet Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD.

Steenhof, K., M. N. Kochert, and T. L. McDonald. 1997. Interactive effects of prey and weather on golden eagle reproduction. Journal of Animal Ecology 66:350-62.

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2011. Endangered species: black-footed ferret. http://www.fws.gov/mountain/prairie/species/mammals/blackfootedferret/

Watson, J., S. R. Rae, and R. Stillman. 1992. Nesting density and breeding success of golden eagles in relation to food-supply in Scotland. Journal of Animal Ecology 61:543-50.

The Board of Commissioners has scheduled a public hearing on August 28th for the review and adoption of the draft prairie dog element.

The ball is in council’s court

Editor’s Note: The following address was given before Longmont City Council on March 14, 2012.

I have a new suggestion tonight relative to how we use the moratorium currently in place to delay applications on hydraulic fracturing within Longmont City Limits.  So far we have been talking about state regulation and the city’s limited authority to challenge it.  The question now becomes, have you heard enough and seen enough in the past few months to be just the slightest bit worried about the impacts of fracking to question its appropriateness in this place, our city?  Your answer to this question determines next steps.

I recently sent an open letter to each of you describing the difference between background research on fracking done by county staff at the direction of the commissioners and research done by city staff at your direction.  The difference was that county staff talked about the impacts of fracking on citizens: health risks, hidden infrastructure costs, property values, etc.—all things that elected officials are responsible for, whereas city staff has so far merely presented a legalistic framework for how to indemnify themselves and you in the face of state preemptions.  Well, it’s a good thing we have a little more time under the moratorium to research our alternatives further.

If—and I give the word emphasis—if you would like to prevent urban fracking if you thought you could, you might re-frame it as a rights issue rather than a regulation issue.  You could re-direct city staff to research the U.S. Constitution, the Colorado Constitution, and our status as a home rule city to challenge preemption at its core.  One course of action open to you while we’ve got a moratorium would be for you to revisit our city charter.  You could ask staff what it would take to initiate an amendment to the city charter banning fracking within city limits.  Or you could decide to put this momentous decision to the voters.  Many of us would help you with such a campaign. However, if you’re fine with big oil’s PR campaign, commissions, and now a task force about how safe and green and inevitable directional hydraulic fracturing is, then you probably won’t welcome this suggestion.  But there it is.  For now the ball is in your court.