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Longmont City Council to Consider Proposed Prairie Dog Control Ordinance

December 17, 2018
Longmont City Council is will consider an ordinance to control prairie dogs, like this one photographed Tuesday near McIntosh Lake,

If you go

What: Longmont City Council

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Civic Center council chambers, 350 Kimbark St., Longmont

Agenda: tinyurl.com/y94hq4zd

Longmont City Council on Tuesday night will consider for the first time an ordinance that would require property owners to get prairie dog management permits before killing the animals on their properties.

The measure would impose new restrictions and conditions on controlling prairie dogs on both privately and publicly owned properties.

It would revise the city’s current prairie dog regulations that now generally only affect properties that have applied for formal city approval of the owners’ development or redevelopment project proposals.

If approved, Longmont’s new procedures would apply to all properties in city limits.

The proposed ordinance on Tuesday night’s council agenda would create two categories of city prairie dog management permits.

A property owner could seek a “minor management permit” if the owner is seeking to destroy fewer than 25 prairie dogs.

As an alternative to destroying those prairie dogs on-site, the property owner could arrange to have them trapped, removed and donated as food for raptor or black-footed ferret recovery programs.

Under a “major management permit” process, a property owner seeking to get rid of more than 25 prairie dogs would have to make a good-faith attempt to relocate the animals to suitable habitat elsewhere — if there are qualified receiving sites available to do that and those sites are on a city registry of pre-approved sites — before being allowed to euthanize the animals under a city “major management permit” process.

The proposed ordinance stems from policy directions the council gave city staff in March after council members heard complaints from prairie dog protection advocates during a number of meetings over the past year.

Critics of Longmont’s current code and regulations had charged that — in addition to having a loophole that did not require prairie-dog relocation efforts by property owners who did not have pending development applications under city review — some property owners with applications in place were not trying very hard to relocate the animals before giving up and seeking to kill them.

A pair of those prairie dog activists, Longmont residents Susan Sommers and Jeremy Gregory — sent the council a Sunday night email suggesting several changes in the staff-drafted ordinance. Sommers is executive director of Save Colorado’s Prairie Dogs and Gregory is executive director of Tindakan, an organization he has said focuses on “eco social justice causes.”

One of those revisions would replace the proposed ordinance’s 25 prairie dog threshold separating minor management and major management permits to one that counts the number of burrows on the property.

A property would qualify for a minor management permit if there are 10 or fewer burrows. A major management permit would be required — and the property owner would first have to attempt in good faith to relocate the animals — if there are 10 or more burrows, under Sommers’ and Gregory’s recommendations.

The 25 prairie dog threshold would require physical counts of the animals, which Sommers and Gregory said “can vary wildly” depending upon weather conditions and the time of the year. They said counting burrows “is an objective assessment that can be accurately performed at any time.”

Sommers and Gregory also called for setting public-comment periods after the city gets applications for minor or major prairie dog management permits. They recommended requiring a 30-day comment period for a minor permit and as much as a 90-day comment period for an application for a major management period for a property that is not within the land development review process.

They suggested that the ordinance state that “prairie dogs shall not be removed or exterminated, nor shall their habitats be disturbed, from a time period of April 1 through June 1.”

Sommers and Gregory said that rule would leave the animals, with they described as a sentient species, during their birthing period.

They wrote that those and their other recommendations for changes in the staff-drafted ordinance “will strengthen the code” by “creating a fair and equitable ordinance that does not unfairly inhibit any one party.”

Tuesday night’s council meeting does not include a public hearing specifically related to the proposed prairie dog management ordinance but — as is the case with all council meetings — people can speak about it during a separate open public comment opportunity.

If the council votes its preliminary approval to the ordinance on Tuesday — including any amendments the council wants made to the staff’s draft language — a public hearing and final council action on the measure are expected to be scheduled for Jan. 8.

Contact Staff Writer John Fryar at 303-684-5211 or jfryar@times-call.com or twitter.com/jfryartc

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