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We're going to move onto prairie dogs now, at least the staff presentation, and then break before the public hearing.…
Some really great numbers and graphics in the presentation.
And here's my story again:…
A brief recap of where we left this: Council approved lethal control last year in a 5-3 vote (the previous council; Weaver and Nagle dissented) An OSBT recommendation to do so preceded their votes, due to the number of farms with lots of p dogs
OSBT looked at a specific plan to clear/kill p dogs in a specific project area north of Boulder. They said (roughly): Move faster, do more lethal control, which is quicker and cheaper than relocation.
They got another look in July, with a revised staff plan and an addition: Let farmers disturb burrows up to 6-12 inches (only in the project area) during certain times of the year (not when there are babies in burrows)
Boulder law currently bans that, so farmers have to plow and irrigate around the burrows so they don't damage them.
That's what council will be considering tonight. OSMP head Dan Burke giving a long speech about why this is necessary. No one wants to harm wildlife, he says, but soil health is degrading and we are losing farmland. We could lose water rights.
P dog populations are at an all-time high in Boulder, since such things started to be tracked in 1996.
I think Burke gave a pretty good summary of the conflict, but I'll take my own crack.

Open space, per its charter, has a few thing it values. Wildlife protection is one, but so is preservation of agricultural land.
Boulder sets aside acreage for prairie dog conservation, and spends $$ on it. It also has land specifically acquired and reserved for agriculture.

Why we're here is that there are now p dogs on ag land, and ag can't happen with the high number of p dogs that exist there today.
Critics of lethal control contend that it can, but OSBT and the farmers themselves say it is not working.

9 properties are no longer leased due to prairie dog populations, removing 454 acres from production.
So the issue is one of balance: Preserving/supporting prairie dogs on some land (set aside for them) but not other land (meant for agriculture)
This is what Boulder County does. They have ag land that is for ag only; they kill prairie dogs on that land bc the uses are not compatible.

Boulder has a policy of relocation, but it's very expensive, takes a long, long time and (right now) isn't keeping up with pop. growth.
Back to prairie dogs: There are 385 specific conservation acres for p dogs, but they are protected on 3,423 acres of open space
Three preserves are in the south, east and north. The northern one is in the project area where we're talking about lethal control. But obviously that would ONLY be allowed on ag lands NOT the preserve.

Preserves are where dogs are relocated to.
Prairie dogs are not arthropods, to be clear. (They either eat or provide habitats for arthropods; I missed which one and I never learned about prairie dogs in Ohio.) I've never heard arthropods mentioned in a council meeting b4 and I got excited.
Mark Gershman, OSMP Senior Planner: Humans are interested in prairie dogs bc they're like us: active during the day, colonial and social
293 acres of OSMP have been ID'd for prairie dog removal areas, 222 of which are in the project area.
4,500 acres are currently occupied by prairie dogs, including 2,700 in the project area.

So roughly 10% of occupied land is targeted for removal.
Burke said yesterday the staff presentation would be 20 min. NOT HAPPENING
We're not even halfway through the staff presentation.
Irrigated ag land occupied by prairie dogs: 1,257 acres (967 in the project area)
Land removed from production bc of prairie dogs: 465 acres (including 254 in the project area)
There are many different numbers and they get confusing. But we're on slide 22 (of 40!) now if you want to follow along.
Some issues caused when tenants stop leasing land, as noted by staff in the meeting packet (which was a really good packet, btw): The city then has to take over the work and cost of maintenance, which it doesn't always have the resources to do.
And bc of Colorado's use-it-or-lose-it water policy, the lands have to keep using their water rights or they'll, well, lose the right to that water.
So (to answer a q from a reader) the city COULD just say fuck it and let the prairie dogs have the land, but they'd still need to use the irrigation water tied to that land, so we'd basically be watering prairie dogs, which is kind of a waste.... ?
Unless we do something, Gershman says, "it's likely we'll be moving further away from the specific practices to sustain agriculture," which is an open space charter purpose.
He mentions the open space master plan, which council passed and praised last year. And it reminded me of this story:…
Gershman: Staff believes "irrigated ag lands provide the best opportunity for OSMP to accelerate the sequestration of carbon."
"That's a little bit about why OSMP is responding," Gershman says.

No, that's A LOT a bit.
Slide 36 of 40. Now we're cooking with gas.
Sorry, solar-powered electricity. Don't wanna upset anyone.
Here's a list of actions council is considering, that OSBT already OK'd (I'd summarize them for you but I've lost the will to live):
1. Meet with stakeholders
2. Relocate prairie dogs from approximately 30-40 acres annually
3. Allow relocation of up to 20 prairie dogs from urban sites w/receiving site capacity
4. Remove approximately 100-200 acres via lethal control annually
5. Establish a 100% removal goal per field relocated/lethally controlled
6. Implement with contractors w/OSMP oversight
7. Install barriers where appropriate
8. Work with neighbors to coordinate removal
9. Restore soils and vegetation for irrigated agricultural use and C-sequestration
10. Allow agricultural activities with limited effects upon burrows both inside, and to a more limited degree, outside the project area
11. Implement as appropriate: Establish a rule to establish consistency of burrow disturbance outside project area with city code; Apply for Special Permit for Lethal Control & Burrow Disturbance in Project Area
The cost for all this: $296,000 - $545,000 per year, on top of the $300,000 - $402,000 currently spent on p dog management

But, staff noted, this will be as the budget allows, since open space — like many dept — experienced cuts
OK, so slightly higher costs in the presentation than in the packet: $596K-$976K per year for relocation ($300K-$402K) of 900 to 1,200 prairie dogs + lethal control ($206K to $455K) of 3,000 to 6,000 prairie dogs
That really shows the cost disparity of lethal control vs. relocation. Assuming the lowest cost and the highest number of dogs, lethal control is $34 per animal; relocation is $250.
That's why OSBT pushed for more lethal control than was originally in the staff plan.
It also treats way more acres more quickly and cheaply: 100-200 acres will be cleared with lethal control each year, vs. 30-40 with relocation.
Wallach asking about recommendations from Keep Boulder Wild, which I haven't seen. Apparently it includes hemp farming on 100 acres in the project area; not sure what that has to do with prairie dogs...? Maybe they're compatible?
Andy Pelster fielding this q: There may be some irrigable land which could be suitable for hemp.
Wallach, another q from that report (which opposes lethal control): They want to step up relocation to 75 acres per year, with support from the Humane Society. Are we OK with that and do we have receiving sites for them?
Heather Swanson gets this one: We may be partnering them. There are limiting factors: It's costly, but if they pay, OK, and staff time to assist and deal with neighbors of those receiving sites.
"Our largest relocation in a single year has been 38 acres," Swanson says. That's just how the timing for relocation works out. "So the feasibility of increasing to 75 acres in a single year, could be pretty problematic."
Swanson: "I don't think we're in a position to commit to doing that much relocation in a year."
Swetlik: If we had volunteers, then what? Are receiving sites still an issue?
Swanson: We have worked with contractors who use volunteers. Open space is not set up to oversee relocations; we've always contracted that work out.
Without extra staff, we couldn't do that, she says.
Young asked about delta dust (which is an insecticide used to keep p dogs from getting the plague) which the state has certain requirements around.
Rella Abernathy: We have to research the legality of using it on each site before we do relocation.
There's a whole permitting process as well.
With the state.
I totally did not understand Young's q, and since there was a long silence after, I'm guessing others didn't either.
Ok, she's restating: If you adjust the relocation vs. lethal control numbers, how does that affect the overall plan? And is it sustainable?
Swanson: It's really hard to answer that, bc each piece of land needs assessed differently. We only have 3% occupancy in the southern grasslands, so it's really low; it's really high in the north.

I don't think relocating more p dogs south will be unsustainable...
... in the short term. If the populations continue to grow, and there's no plague, it may become unsustainable long-term.

"I'm not trying to avoid your questions, but it's a hard one to answer."
Swanson: We evaluate it on a year-by-year basis, bc prairie dog populations can change rapidly. They drop fast when there's a plague and they grow quick when it's a dry year.
Swanson: But we do have neighbors in the southern grassland that have to sign onto the permit from the state to relocate the prairie dogs. If we relocate too many, they won't sign off.
But near-term, "that's probably not the biggest issue."
Council might defer the actual discussion and vote until another night, Weaver says.
OK, 5 min break then I *think* public hearing.
Nagle doesn't seem particularly thrilled with the suggestion to delay the discussion.
I should point out that, at 2 min each, 105 speakers is 3.5 hrs, assuming it goes BOOM BOOM BOOM with no time in between or technical difficulties.
And you know what they say about assuming.
Two sixth-grade girls are being moved up in the queue so they can go to bed, plus Colorado's First Gentleman Marlon Reis.
I'll hang in for these but then I'm walking my dogs. You don't need my play-by-play on this; you've heard it all before.
I'm not really a kid person. I remain unmoved by Celia's pleas to not kill the prairie dogs, but I applaud her passion.
I think it's crap to move up the governor's husband in the queue. You want to participate? Then you sit here like the rest of us! This is democracy in #Boulder, baby.
They also let him go over time! This is nepotism.
Aron Smolley from Gunbarrel is really unleashing a tirade here. This is an "eco-side" ... "How typical of Americans to kill anything that affects our bank accounts. ... It's an evil plan."
Also calls for the "culling of cows, or better yet, humans."
I forgot how fun prairie dog hearings are.
Smolley says city council will be "the supervillains" in their children's stories.

"If we can't get it right, I don't want to live on this planet anymore."
They should send all elected officials and reporters here to Boulder to observe our city council meetings. Like a foreign exchange program.
Also poets and playwrights, because man the level of passion and the study of human psychology is something to behold.
Powerful language by Deanna Meyer. I am stirred. It sounds like she's describing an apocalypse or the colonizing of America and decimation of indigenous populations.
Seems like a good time to post the (albeit early) results of a soil health study:…
I mean, I find this (never-ending) argument really fascinating, because all the points the prairie dog ppl make are very true on a macro level: Agriculture has, by and large, been bad for the earth and absolutely have damaged ecosystems.
But ag innovations also are the reasons populations expanded and we're all arguably here today. (Seems like a good time to mention that the land we're on was already inhabited and therefore stolen.)
And, like, we need to eat and live here. (Unless all these ppl are volunteering to sell their homes and move away to go live in the woods as foragers.)
So how do you take very valid macro-level concerns (human expansion degrading the environment) and apply them to real local issues? We can't just stop growing food; presumably we still need to eat, so that would just be outsourcing food production to lands that are not here.
V good points about what's the most efficient use of land for food, which is def not cattle or animals (Mostly vegetarian here, so not being a hypocrite)

But, like, people also eat meat and that's not really stopping anytime soon.
So, ultimately, given the reality, the question is: How do we do these things we have to do that aren't all that great in the least-impactful possible way?
Anyway, I'm going to walk my dogs because you really don't need to read every speaker's comment. I can sum it up for you now:
Don't kill the prairie dogs!
Save the farms and the soil!
Checking in: We're at speaker 24.
Darn, I missed Elizabeth Black. Did she do a cool presentation?
I think Beth Potter, Speaker No. ~33, is a former Camera reporter. But I could be wrong. It's not the world's most uncommon name.
"Fun" fact: I have never participated in a public meeting or demonstration or signed a petition because = journalism.
Lucky Becket is calling from Ohio and calling Colorado's water law stupid. Which, like, OK, but what is Boulder supposed to do about that?
"The whole world is watching you and you don't want to lose your tourist dollars."

I didn't realize prairie dogs were such a draw in Boulder.
Lots of anti-lethal control people seem to be confused about what Delta Dust is used for, arguing against it. That's what Boulder uses when it RELOCATES prairie dogs, which is what they are advocating for.
Invocation of the Geneva Convention!

Who has the prairie dog bingo card?
Ghandi quote! Another square!
Your friendly reminder that Ghandi was racist and sexual predator. (And John Lennon beat his wife.)

Maybe remember that before you quote them in the future.
We're at speaker 51, the halfway point.
"Can you hear me?" is definitely the middle space on a Zoom council meeting BINGO card
"On the sixth day, God created prairie dogs, and he called his creation good," says Roland Halpern.

I don't remember that particular verse in my many readings of the Good Book, but it's been a few years.
Oh, snap, we're at No. 83 already. Zooming right along.
John Scott earns points for brevity.
Mike Sterling: 50 years ago, we put a man on the moon. Today we're talking about a solution that involves killing.

Mike, I've got bad news for you about the first animals in space....
Actually, I'll leave that to the Smithsonian.…
"It's obvious that bison and cattle need grass, but maybe it's not as obvious that the grass needs them," says Marcus McCauley, who does regenerative farming adjacent to Boulder open space with prairie dogs (the one I wrote about). "They co-evolved."
"I've seen the land degrade. I've seen the topsoil blow away," he says.

I've been trying for two years to regenerate that land with prairie dogs on it, "and I haven't been able to. I've failed."
Maybe there were more farmers earlier but I haven't heard very many tonight. Maybe a dozen?
Guys, we are in the home stretch. 10 speakers to go!
OMG it's done!
Well, just the public hearing. Maybe council discussion, but maybe not.

Weaver: "I don't see any good way that we could have a thoughtful debate right now."
Would reschedule that for a future meeting, of 1.5-2 hrs.
Brockett making a factual correction: Delta Dust is NOT used for lethal control. That's what we use when we relocate them, to try and control the plague. We have to, per state law.

Gershman confirms. I TOLD YOU SO.
It kills fleas, which transmit the plague.
Weaver: "That is probably the last prairie dog hearing that Jane Brautigam is ever going to sit through."
Which means they won't take this up again until November (?) bc she's retiring in October.
The city didn't intend to start lethal control until next year anyway, since they needed time to prep. But I wonder if this will set them back at all.
Either way, we're done for the night. I guess council canceled it's legislative/financial update. I missed that, somehow.

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