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Guess what time it is (again)? PRAIRIE DOGS!
The pdog and ag folks have trickled back in, no doubt after dinner and (hopefully) some drinks.
This part of the memo was a slog to get through. But I had to, bc all the $$ bits were sprinkled throughout a lot of open space and planning jargon.
I did it for you, #Boulder. Bc I love you.
Dan Burke, OSMP director: We've heard from *a lot* of ppl in recent weeks. We've been meeting with *a lot* of ppl.
"Even though we're going to come at it from different perspectives, the silver lining is that all those folks were coming with a deep love of the land, a deep respect for the land. If we can just keep that spirit alive as the night goes on, that would be great."
Heather Swanson, Ecological Stewardship Supervisor, Open Space and Mountain Parks, up now.

A little reminder of why this working group was formed: A truly delightful piece from my predecessor. dailycamera.com/2016/08/16/dra…
That was in 2016. The first phase of PDWG (prairie dog working group) recommendations were approved in June 2017:
Criteria for prioritizing relocation sending sites
• Criteria for prioritizing receiving sites
• Provide adequate accommodations for all relocated prairie dogs ...
... • Define successful prairie dog relocation
• Use plague vaccine in Southern Grasslands
There are 42 Phase 2 recommendations from the PDWG
Staff put them into four categories.
Category 1: Can be done with existing resources, policies
Category 2: Can be done with existing policies but need more staff/resources
2a: Can be done 2020-2021 with budget requests
2b: Can be done 2022 or later
7 recommendations in Category 2 are too complicated, time intensive, staff heavy, etc, so staff is recommending deferring them; education, mapping of conflict areas, etc.
Categories 3 and 4: 6 recommendations
Category 3: Not consistent with current plans or policies but with current staff/resources
Category 4: Not consistent with current plans or policies and needs extra staff/resources
Exhausted yet? I am.
10 recommendations in Category 1. On track for implementation in 2019/2020.
• All translocated prairie dogs receive plague abatement
• Ensure IPM policy allows for use of insecticide as necessary
• Hold public meeting for update and discussion of progress
Category 2: 2 recommendations that are on-track to be implemented:
• Create and implement a fee structure for private landowners relocating to city
• Provide barriers/exclusion on ag. properties
Others aren't quite feasible:
• Address 10% of conflicts annually (staff recommending 3-4 yrs)
• Establish Grassland Conservation Fund
• Leverage support from philanthropic community
These Category 2 recommendations are being deferred (rather, staff wants to defer them):
• Map neighboring landowner conflict areas
• Increased community outreach; public surveys, and plague education
• Report on inflows and outflows of Grassland Conservation Fund
Now onto Category 3 and 4 recommendations.
1. Creation of plague management plan:
• Environmental Assessment- Q4, 2019
• Draft Plan- Q1, 2020
• Final Plan- Q2, 2020
• Issues to be considered:
• pesticide use on native grasslands
.... • protecting p.dogs from plague while not exacerbating issues resulting from high occupation levels
2. Black-footed Ferret Reintroduction
• Feasibility and trade-off analysis- 2020-2021
• Decision on proceeding with pursuing reintroduction- end 2021
• Agreements with collaborators- 2022
• Reintroduction if desired- timing uncertain
Issues to be considered:
• Need for plague management
• Impacts to grazing and lessees
• Occupancy levels required and impacts to grassland mosaic protection
BLERGH! I'm sorry that was such a dump of info. There was *so* much in the packet; at least the presentation is somewhat organized. View it here: www-static.bouldercolorado.gov/docs/6C_Prairi…
Now we're getting into the good stuff: Conflicts with irrigated agriculture.
Recommendations on that:
 Pilot managed buffer zones
 Provide barriers/exclusion on strategic ag. properties
 Collaborate with partners on conflict mitigation
 Pilot conflict mitigation strategy
 Ensure sufficient budgets for prairie dog management
 Install barriers on OSMP ag land and on adjacent private land
 Increase # translocations annually
 Address 10% of conflicts annually
The last time this was assessed was the fall of 2018. Assessment found 36 properties or 1,052 acres, occupied by pdogs. (16% of total irrigable land)
14,000-20,000 animals (based on average densities per acre)
$4.8M-$7.3M to relocate those over 20-30 yrs
It's not feasible to relocate those in any short amount of time, Nelson says.
Here's what is feasible: 12 colonies, or about 10% of the conflicted areas, 110 acres, or 3,000-ish prairie dogs, over the next 3-4 years.
I'll need to correct my earlier tweets and story: I thought the packet said 12 PROPERTIES, not colonies. (Maybe they're the same...?)
Cost to relocate 3,000 prairie dogs, at $350 per pdog, is $1.5M, Nelson says.
BUT, she says, we aren't proposing to relocate them all.
For the remaining 19 properties (OK, so colonies and properties are interchangeable; cancel earlier correx) and 942 acres, the city is basically hoping for a plague to wipe out the population and then go in and prevent them from coming back.
Q from Morzel: Do those costs include staff time.
No, it doesn't: It's just what the contractor gets paid.
Boards that have weighed in: Open Space Board of Trustees, Environmental Advisory, Parks and Recreation Advisory Board (OSBT, EAB, PRAB)

All three OK'd the working group Phase 2 recommendations.
OSBT: Wanted to look again at the relocation criteria, recommended looking at lethal control, and wanted more staff/resources to help with pdogs
PRAB wanted to prioritize relocation from city land (Valmont Park has some pdogs that need moved) over private lands
EAB didn't weigh in on lethal control, feeling they lacked expertise. But they did say that carbon sequestration should be a factor and that it has been "largely neglected" in discussions of prairie dogs.
There are pdog ppl in front of me muttering mutinously whenever they disagree with staff (like how much it costs to relocate prairie dogs and how many acres are affected)
Nagle: I have info here that (a contractor) charged $125 per prairie dog. So where does $350 per dog come from?
Nelson: That's what our contractor charged last year, based on number of dogs moved and total cost charged. I think it's fair.
That was an interesting relocation, but their recent rates quoted to us were "much higher."
Nagle's information came from a prairie dog coalition of some sort, she said. I think she said the name was the prairie dog coalition, but it was really quick.
We're trying to find information in the 831-page packet. It's on page 773.

You know what I miss? Reading books.
This table is very useful, bc it's working group recommendations vs. staff recommendations.
Here's an interesting thing I haven't pointed out yet: The city is actively treating relocated prairie dogs for the plague. They also want to depend on the plague to control populations.
That's the point of a plague management plan, Nelson says: To say where you want to manage the plague and maybe where you don't.
Crap, I've been saying Nelson, but it's Swanson. Heather Swanson. Correx to all earlier tweets. Ugh, I'm sorry!
Guys, I just found a piece of popcorn by my chair that I *definitely* dropped at the last meeting two weeks ago.
OK back to pdogs: Weaver says science isn't settled on prairie dogs and soil health. Maybe city should hire a consultant to do a review of literature.
Morzel: There's a lot of peer-reviewed science on the positive impacts of pdogs on soil health.
Swanson: Pdog working group recommendation on barriers was "just to do it." Staff needs to provide a “feasibility reality check” on that. Bc barriers are really expensive and not effective.
Pdog working group also wanted to address 10% of conflict areas every year; that's not possible, staff says. 10% every 3-4 years (at a cost of $1M or so) is all that can be handled with current staff/resources.
Morzel: "I'm concerned it's not being expedited."
Morzel: Are you looking at impacts from just pdogs, or from cattle and horses?
Swanson: We are looking at that.
Back to barriers: $2.2M for 11.5 miles.
That would protect 22 neighboring properties who have complained and asked for a barrier. "We don't know the scope" of the whole problem; just the ones who have called, Swanson says.
Staff is not recommending that, to be clear. They want a city grant program be established to help "share the costs" with private landowners who want barriers.

Sooo... the city let pdogs run onto these lands but then want ppl to help pay for it? That's a tough sell.
Burke: This is in the face of a $9M budget reduction next year. So there are a lot of tradeoffs. We're suggesting tripling one program's budget.
Weaver: It's expensive, but we're hearing we're not being good neighbors. This is one way to be a good neighbor.
Jones asks what the limits are to relocation. Money, staff, and time, Swanson says. "There's only so much time in the season, and so much manpower to make that happen."
Nagle wants to bring up a community member who says relocations cost half as much as staff is alleging.
This relocator, Deb Johnson, is wearing a Keep Boulder Wild t-shirt.
"Our highest cost has never been than $65-$67. We're an all-volunteer organization."
"I know that environmental organizations are going to charge you that kind of money. But you don't have to pay that kind of money. I've been doing this for 20-plus years. I've never been paid a dime."
Carlisle asking about liability. Volunteers sign liability waivers, and there is liability insurance "at times," Johnson (or Johnston?) says.
Swanson: We received 2 RFPs for the last relocation and went with the lower one.
It was $203 per dog, someone else from the audience says, who says her organization won that bid. "The $350 is an outlier number to me."
She also said the cost for that project was $125. So it's either $125 or $203 per prairie dog for her company, $65-$67 per pdog for that other company, or $350 per dog for whomever the city hired...?
The audience is restless. Someone just said aloud "That's not true" to what staff is sharing. Much mean-spirited laughter as well.
Now council is discussing the hot-button issues: Recommendations from the Open Space Board, which wants to explore lethal control.
There was a q about lethal control permits. City historically has gotten 1 a year. There are 50 acres in the city with pdogs that *could* be developed, some lady shared. (I'm sorry, but there are a gazillion staff members here and they don't all introduce themselves.)
OK, her name is Val or something similar.
I am *very* confused about what is going on RN.
OK, it was this: The city needs to move some pdogs off Valmont park, which it hopes to develop (Phase 2) in 2022-2023. The dogs would need moved next year. Bc of the city's fee structure, the parks and rec dept will have to pay open space to relocate them.
You know it's a good program when the city has to pay itself to do something.
Open Space board is arguing that priorities for relocation should be city lands. Thomas Isaacson, board member: It's not our purpose to help private landowners. I'm not denigrating that, but it's not OUR purpose as a board.
There is a lot of discussion about this. Sorry I'm not typing it; it was just blerg.
Young is saying she wouldn't prioritize that bc it's ironically removing the prairie dogs from their natural habitat, which is the opposite of what they want.
She's naming all the relocations: 772 prairie dogs, all from private land, when we could have for those three yeas been relocating them from our land.

(It's not all private land: two were open space and park land)
But the contention comes bc the private relocations provide $$ to the city that can be used for pdog management.
Yates asks: Would you advocate for lethal control on private lands?
Young: Open space is just asking for a process where lethal control might make sense.
Jones: It's not about keeping every single pdog alive; we're not, they're getting killed in other ways. It's just do we want to kill them.
Weaver: My understanding is that we were supporting relocation on southern grasslands bc we want to introduce the black-footed ferret.
Carlisle: There is an overpopulation on our land, so why we would move from private land doesn't make sense.
Carlisle: Is city open space land the only place in the world to relocate pdogs?
There are state laws on moving pdogs from county to county.
Council (mostly Morzel) discussing moving pdogs to Rocky Flats.
They haven't called back, city staff says.

So we love the pdogs and don't want to kill them, but we'll move them to a site contaminated by plutonium? Okaaaaaaaaaay.
Carlisle: "I'm uncomfortable with totally micro-managing our boards."
Young: It's not our job to move pdogs from private land to facilitate development.
Weaver: They're paying for it
Nagle: If we say no, are we going to say to the development? I mean, cool, I'm all for that, but....
Young cuts in but Nagle continues with this gem...
"You're condemning them to death. Aaron, you would have had to walk by the Armory and watch them using CO2 and their brains pop."
. @CassaMN just asked me if council decided anything, and I honestly can't say.
We might have a question (or more) for someone from Boulder County, who stayed all this time, about the county's approach to lethal control.
County traps the pdogs and takes them to a ferret recovery center. There's a holding space with cages on county open space, Therese Glowacki says. They are quarantined first to make sure they don't have the plague.
The county doesn't do anything but trap and hold the prairie dogs. A federal program does: Ferrets are the most endangered mammal in North America, Glowacki says, so the feds put a lot of effort in.
They have holding pens where ferrets learn to hunt on their own. Pdogs are released there to become prey. Young ferrets are feed pdogs that have been gassed.
On a weekly basis during high season, county takes up 52-100 pdogs to the ferret center. Season runs June 1-late October/November. Trap about 1,300 dogs a year, on average, for the past 15 yrs.
Costs of trapping per dog aren't tracked, but $150,000 a year on staff time for managing prairie dogs, which includes trapping and lethal control, another $20K on materials, and capital costs (trucks, machines) $150K over the past five years. (So $30K per year)
Q from Brockett: Are the ferret ppl looking for more pdogs?
Laughter from the audience.
More municipalities have gone to lethal control, so BoCo is the only one delivering live pdogs to that program.
Q from Jones: How do you decide to do lethal control vs. trapping?
Glowaki: The efficacy of trapping decreases over time; we'll trap for a week but then remove them and do lethal bc the cost to get those last pdogs is exorbitant.
In areas that we absolutely don't want pdogs, we use lethal control, bc if you don't get them all with trapping, you're just treating and treating and treating, year after year.
"When we really want the prairie dogs gone and it's low numbers, we use lethal." Trap first on large colonies and on multi-objective areas.
Boulder County has done lethal control for 20 years., Glowaki says. Plan has been modified five times, but original plan said lethal control is a possibility bc the goal on our irrigated ag lands is irrigated agriculture.
Some pdogs that are killed on county land get sent to the raptor recovery center. You don't have to quarantine them for plague bc raptors don't get it.
Boulder County treated 530 acres last year. But the density of pdog occupation varied on those acres. Can't be converted to number of pdogs.

530 acres for ~$250K vs. 16.8 acres for $1M. Hmmm...
Sorry, $200K per year, roughly.
Isaacson from the Open Space board, talking about dual open space priorities of pdog conservation vs ag: "We've reached a point where, on certain lands, those two objectives are in conflict. Something has to give." Doing nothing is making a choice: against agriculture.
There was a sense in the last 6 months where it's gone from a problem to a crisis, and level of complaining from ranchers and doing visits to those places ... demanded whether we consider this was an option.
"We weren't eager to take this one. We finally reached a point we felt we had to."
Weaver: There's clearly a conflict. Whether it's a crisis is a judgement call.
"Is 16% a crisis level?"

I would argue anything that takes $7.3M to fix is a crisis, but that's just me.
Isaacson: On those lands where occupancy is 50% or higher, the economic viability of those lands is in jeopardy. And there are other parts of the system that can't be leased at all.
518 vacant lease acres, Weaver says, 13,000 in lease. "A relatively small percentage." It brings me to the same question: I'm not sure why it's a crisis level.
"What makes this an imminent thing we have to take out of the hands of the prairie dog working group?"
Isaacson: We are a charter board; council is required to have our recommendation.
Morzel: We've put, to date, close to $170K into the pdog working group and recommendations.. Why would we put that into a group just to have their work "usurped" by OSBT?
"Why would the board come up with this recommendation out of the blue? I feel like our time is being wasted. Why would you interrupt the process that was set by the council?"
Isaacson: Working group recommendations are not intended to solve the conflicts within any timeframe that would be acceptable. Even in 10 years, we're not going to be able to relocate...
Morzel interrupts, then Jones stops her. "Let's not argue."
Isaacson: Nothing against the working group, but they're not going to solve this conflict. The group is not going to reach a consensus for lethal control; it's off the table. The only way that tool get in the toolbox is to have us look at it.
Weaver is referencing the historical ebb and flow of pdogs on open space. Increased from 1996-2006, then declined until 2009
Increased from 2009-2018
Highest ever level was in 2018
Weaver: Did you consider those numbers? (Seems to be suggesting it will naturally take care of itself.)
Isaacson: If we could say with confidence the plague could come through next year, we wouldn't be having this conversation.
"Just hoping for the plague, which is weird, to take us out of this conundrum is not good policy making."
Morzel: Could lethal control wait for 2 yrs until pdog working group recommendations are done?
Isaacson: It's not only that we lose lease revenue; it's a hit to our credibility with our lessees. If high-priority properties were to go under... you need to put thaqt in the mix.
Grumbles from the ag folks at Morzel's last question, plus this one: Do you look at the impacts of agriculture on the land, or just prairie dogs?
Isaacson: It's at least the general received wisdom on open space that cattle are good on the soil. They replaced the bison which were the natural inhabitants long ago. It's our view that council has said local ag is a priority; that means ranching.
OK, I feel like now is a good time to re-remind everyone of what Mayor Jones said just two weeks ago about the prairie dog working group: "We didn't have good ag representation on our prairie dog working group and it's coming back to bite us."
You can find that quote near the end of this thread of live tweets: threadreaderapp.com/thread/1120909…
And yet no one has mentioned that tonight as they accuse the open space board of "usurping" the pdog working group.
Nagle: The working group DID come to consensus on lethal control and they agreed it wasn't responsible.
Asks Isaacson: Did you read the leases for Boulder Valley and (another property) with the most problems? (Yes, he says.)
"They signed the lease not too long ago and they knew of the problem" and that precedent was given to wildlife.
Isaacson: To say to them you agreed to this on your last lease doesn't get us out of the problem.
Carlisle asks for a "few words" about water rights.
Open space has $100M worth of water rights. "It's a complete disaster" if under the use-it-or-lose-it water laws, we lose them.
Staff has said we're not in danger of that at this time.
Jones: Obvs we have some values in conflict. My q ultimately has to do with soil health and not losing topsoil due to mismanagement. How does that factor into this?
Grazing has been regulated and monitored since 2009. They are stable, staff says. Grassland plan objectives governs that, and those goals are being achieved. From 2009-2019, we are seeing less bare ground, a good indicator that grazing isn't exceeding capacity.
Jones: We do have acreage where we are losing topsoil, "the ultimate crime."
What's the overlap with the prairie dog issue?
Most of those lands are the 518 unleased but irrigable land.
Jones is fighting with Morzel about questions she has.
"It's 12:45!" (Jones)
"You guys scheduled this and I have questions." (Morzel)
Morzel is asking about transferring ag lands into conservation, either long-term or short-term.
Isaacson: No. We recognize that if we lose the productivity of those lands, that would be in conflict with the priority for agriculture.
Morzel: It doesn't seem like you know a lot about the soil. Do we have any soil specialists on open space?
No, we don't have a technical soil specialist, staff guy answers as Morzel talks over him.
Morzel: If we don't have a specialist, how does removing a single species guarantee we are going to ensure soil health?
Carlisle wants to move forward with exploring lethal control.
Jones: We need to make sure we are not endangering more acres or losing topsoil. We need to stop that and look at how to reverse it. We need to change our management to counter-act that. Having multiple tools to look at that, I'm amendable. Reluctantly, but I'm amendable.
Brockett: It takes an extremely long time to restore soil health. Including that in this conversation is important. The other is conflict with historic ag which is part of the resilience of this area.
"It would be much preferable to use non-lethal control methods." But city should start exploring lethal control bc these issues are time-sensitive.
I think Young agreed with him?
Weaver takes issue with OSBT's claim that it's not feasible to address these conflicts in a timely manner with non-lethal methods.
"I don't think it's an excuse to be killing prairie dogs unless it's the last possible thing that will do it."
Wants to "water down" the language to de-emphasize lethal control. "Not clear to me" that prairie dogs are bad for soil health.
Jones: It's not that they're bad at all: It's the numbers. It's density-dependent.
Carlisle: I have walked on some of the lands that have been denuded, I have seen the topsoil blowing away. There's no way I can say there wasn't a cause and effect there. I think we need to move forward as expeditiously as we can, bc delay here will cause us more loss.
Jones said they can direct staff to look at short-term fixes.
Morzel: How do you think the community is going to react? This thing isn't going to have a suitable public process in that timeline OSBT has laid out.
"Why don't we deal with these two properties (with highest area of conflict) relocate the dogs, and look at things in the long-term? It needs to be a public process."
Nagle is suggesting paying for the loss of agricultural production in the short-term. Ag ppl in the audience are shaking their heads.
Young: We're talking about tens of thousands of prairie dogs. To me, that sounds pretty infeasible. I don't see a way of relocating (that many) prairie dogs at a rate of 700 a year with a 30% reduction in (OSMP) budget. I just don't see it.
She is calling up ag lessees to speak to Nagle's proposal. (Nagle backpeddles, saying it was a recommendation of a community member.)
Bobby Lover, rancher at Boulder Valley Ranch: It was mentioned today, but I haven't responded to anything. (Nagle said she heard that's what they wanted.)
Lover: "I feel like you're bribing me to not take care of the land. To me, the land is more important. Taking care of it. We're just beating our heads against the wall."
"We've got so many, they're out of room. It's kind of a snowball deal, and that's why it's come to a head."
"We want to continue, but I've got to look at the long-term. I've got to go somewhere else, and if I do that, it's got to be done in a timely manner."
"You want another generation coming in, or do you want us to leave?" (Bobby Lover's (I assume) son, whose first name I didn't catch.)
Weaver asks about the big pdog die-off in 2005-2006.
"Not on our land," Lover says. They have taken over more and more of our irrigated land.
They had to sell cattle and buy hay last year to keep the operation going.
Weaver: You've got 575 acres and 279 of them have prairie dogs. You are kind of the base of this problem.
Lover: "We feel it is a crisis."
Q from Brockett: How long have you worked that land?
Lover: Since 1989 (at Boulder Valley Ranch) other properties before that.
They gave up a lease on some property that has 82% prairie dog occupation.
Morzel asks if they are going to review at Boulder Valley Ranch.
Lover: That depends on what happens.
Morzel: This process is not going to go fast.
Younger Lover: We'll re-sign if there's some hope that something will happen.
Morzel: Would removing or destroying the burrows, would that help at all?
Lover: We do that when we're irrigating; chase them out. We waste a lot of water doing that, but as soon as the holes are dry, they come back.
Lovers said that someone killed the dogs and flattened the burrows, but they came back.
Nagle seizes on this: Then we'll just have to kill them every year?
Lover: They came back they the city land is adjacent and the pdogs weren't managed.
Leases dictate that farmers/ranchers cannot disturb or damage burrows EXCEPT for passive relocation.
Weaver says we should focus on the two most impacted properties. There are 8,000 dogs at Boulder Valley Ranch, and a bit more on the other property. (Axle Johnson or something like that)
"If we're not making progress with them, the pressure is just going to build and build and build to rush the process?"
Swanson: On those two lands, "the colonies are of a sufficient size …. Relocation where you keep them out isn’t feasible."
Weaver: I get it. It's 10 years worth of relocation.
Young: Our policy of no lethal control has outsourced lethal control.
Quotes a letter to the editor of a neighboring property owner killing thousands of prairie dogs. "It's not them killing the prairie dogs; it's us killing them bc of our policy of not killing them."
"We are doing it. We are responsible. We have to own it."
Jones: We have to move faster than 16 months.
Asking for "guidance" from staff about "short-term relief in the crisis areas."
Nagle speaks again. It's crap, so I'm not typing it.
I legit couldn't follow what she was saying except: Talk to community members who might want to help. Maybe she is suggesting volunteers...?
Burke: As far as an expedited expedited process, is that what I'm hearing? Bc our capacity doesn't change. We've given our best idea of tripling our current capacity.
"We don't think relocation is going to solve the issue there."
I feel like everyone is dancing around the solution: Allow lethal control for these two properties immediately. Work on long-term solutions elsewhere.
Weaver is instead *again* suggesting compensating the property owners for lost property.
Young: They didn't want that.
Brockett: The quote was, "You're bribing us to not take care of the land."
Young: They want to take care of the land, Sam.
Weaver: We're not going to be killing prairie dogs this summer.
We can do emergency measures to limit height, to ban development and demolition, but not to kill some prairie dogs on two pieces of land, apparently.
Burke is throwing some cold water on that: They don't even know if lethal control will work. "This may not be a panacea; we haven't gone through the process. Maybe we'll come back to you and say it's not worth it."
"We haven't analyzed it yet."
Jones: "So we'll just hope for a plague."
I think council is moving to instruct staff to explore lethal control, among other measures. Where the $$ will come from is being discussed now.
Jane Brautigam says she's not sure where it would come from. "If you do want us to find these dollars, idk even how much it is, I can ask the budget office" to look around.
"If council wants them to do something different this summer, they need to figure out what that is and where the $$ is going to come from."
We're not doing a public hearing on this, so council is suspending rules around that and voting on this.
First motion is to accept staff recommendation on the Phase 2 recommendations of the prairie dog working group. Unanimous.
Motion 3 includes lethal control. Weaer, Morzel and Nagle oppose.
Motion passes.
Motion 4 is to increase resources. Brautigam says they shouldn't vote on that bc they don't even know how much it is or what it's going to be used for.
That's the end of one of the longest council meetings of my career.

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