Testimony before Boulder City Council on Prairie Dog Relocation

Testimony before Boulder City Council on Prairie Dog Relocation

Here is the video and transcript of my testimony before the Boulder City Council on the issue of the relocation of the Armory prairie dog colony. Note that I had only two minutes to speak; the transcript is my full testimony, the video is the shortened version.

boulder city council prairie dog testimony-1

 

Transcript

August 16, 2016

My name is Anne Mitchell, and I live in Boulder. I am an attorney, and a legislative consultant.

First, I would like to qualify why I am involved here. I have an interest in the issues surrounding the Armory prairie dog colony. However, I am independent, and not affiliated with any group and, I like to think, clear-eyed and level-headed. As someone who has worked in the legislative arena for many years, I know how tough it is trying to resolve conflicting needs, even without emotion entering into it. And of course the issue of the Armory prairie dogs is one that is highly emotionally charged.

The basic facts of this situation, as I both understand them, and which has been confirmed to me by parties on both sides of the issue, are as follows:

– The Armory parcel was transferred to private hands in May of this year. Prior to that, and for many decades, the Armory was on public land.

– There exists on the Armory parcel a colony of prairie dogs.

– In May of this year, the Armory parcel was transferred to Armory Community, LLC, for private development.

– In order to proceed with development of the parcel, the principals of Armory Community need the colony to be moved off of the parcel, one way or another.

– The principals of Armory Community have repeatedly stated that they wish to find a non-lethal solution to this situation – in other words, relocation of the colony. To this end, they have also repeatedly stated that they will cover all of the cost of relocation, and in addition will pay an extra $5000 on top of the cost of relocation. In fact, I commend these developers for repeatedly trying to do the right thing, only to be denied any relocation opportunity through public agencies.

– In their memorandum entitled “Update on city prairie dog relocation policies and priorities for 2016″, city manager Jane Brautigam, David Driskell (Planning Housing & Sustainability), Susan Richstone (Planning Housing & Sustainability),Tracy Winfree (Open Space and Mountain Parks), Yvette Bowden (Parks & Recreation), John Potter (Open Space and Mountain Parks), Lesli Ellis (Planning Housing & Sustainability), Jeff Haley (Parks & Recreation), Heather Swanson (Open Space and Mountain Parks), Valerie Matheson (Planning Housing & Sustainability), Joy Master (Parks & Recreation), and Don D’Amico (Open Space and Mountain Parks), combine to exhort the council to take on the formidable task of revamping the entire system and processes for dealing with prairie dogs, nearly burying issue of the Armory colony under a mountain of “the entire system needs to be looked at”. Of course, the Armory colony does not time to wait for that eventuality, and those who have signed on to this memorandum well know that. The colony’s time is running out.

– Also in the ‘Update on city prairie dog relocation policies and priorities for 2016′ memorandum, the combined representatives of these agencies state that “There is a private land owner in Boulder County that has offered their property approximately eight miles up Flagstaff Road as a potential relocation receiving site for the Armory prairie dogs.”

However, to the best of this author’s knowledge, nobody outside of the authors of that memorandum, and certainly not anybody involved with seeking the relocation of the colony, is aware of any such offer. This includes the principals of Armory Community!

Whether intentionally or not, it seems very much as if the representatives of the agencies involved in this memorandum are playing ‘hide the ball’, in an effort to pass the buck and relieve themselves of having to have anything to do with the relocation of the Armory colony. They mention, vaguely, an offer of private land – an offer that is apparently known only to them.

They also bring up the issue of the ban on relocating a colony that is on private land to public land – only colonies that are on public land are to be relocated to other public land. However, they overlook the fact that the Armory colony, too, had been on this previously public land for many years.

It is only in the past 4 months that the colony is now on what is designated as private land, and that as a result of the knowing transfer of that land – with the colony on it – from public to private hands.

The Armory colony, however, was known by the city and these agencies to be on public land as early 1995, when the city first announced the North Broadway development plan. And in any event, the colony – on public land – was certainly well known to officials no later than 2014, as, according to the city’s own website, “In 2013, the city launched a plan update with a focus on the North Broadway area and invited the community to participate.” (https://bouldercolorado.gov/planning/north-boulder-subcommunity-plan)

This means that the city and agency officials almost certainly already knew of the colony at the Armory, at least since 2014, as the Armory features prominently in the plans.

At that time the colony was on public land, making it eligible to be relocated to open space or other public land.

I would suggest that this means that someone, somewhere, in an accountable agency, was well aware that they had a duty to at least attempt to assist in relocation efforts to other public land, and that they continued to look the other way until such time as the land on which the colony was established was transmuted to private land, right out from under the colony, allowing the agencies to say “Oh, sorry, this colony is on private land and ineligible to be relocated to public land.” I am aware however that this developer has been trying to get assistance with relocating this colony for as much as 2 years – well before the land became privately held – and now these agencies have the temerity to cite the private/public land issue as a reason they cannot accept this colony onto public land?

Hiding the ball. Passing the buck.

They also know that now – and with this unspecified suggestion of an offer of private land for a relocation – that time is very, very short. They have backed this developer into a corner, and – most unforgivably – are allowing the developer to take the fall for being forced into having to apply for this lethal control permit. Is this the message we want to send to developers who are looking at investing money in our community? Give us your money, we’ll sell you the land, but we’re going to make you look like the bad guy when we won’t assist you with relocating the critters on the property that we sell you?

Again, hiding the ball, and passing the buck.

This developer has bent over backward to try to get this colony relocated. It is unfair and unreasonable to put them in the position of having to either kill the colony, or to be unable to proceed with their business, a business in which they have already invested millions of dollars – with the city!

In fact, I know that this developer would very much still like to relocate this colony. They would welcome assistance from either the public or private sector – they would do nearly anything to help relocate this colony and not be forced into this untenable situation.

I am not going to ask you to refuse to issue the lethal control permit, because without the cooperation of the agencies in relocating this colony, all that does is further squeeze these developers – conscientious developers trying to do the right thing – further into a corner.

But I am going to ask you to do the following:

1. Consider continuing this matter until a date at least a week out
2. Separate the issue of the Armory colony out from the more general, involved issues of prairie dog management
3. Meet with the appropriate people at the appropriate agencies and demand a relocation solution for the Armory colony

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to speaking before you this evening!

Kind regards,

Anne

Anne P. Mitchell,
Attorney at Law
Legislative Consultant
CEO/President, Institute for Social Internet Public Policy
Member, Cal. Bar Cyberspace Law Committee
Member, Colorado Cyber Committee
Member, Asilomar Microcomputer Workshop Committee
Author: Section 6 of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (the Federal anti-spam law)
Ret. Professor of Law, Lincoln Law School of San Jose
Ret. Chair, Asilomar Microcomputer Workshop