Friday, April 20, 2007

Flagstaff Habitat Conservation Area

To Boulder City Council:

I just discovered a Habitat Conservation Area posted for the north side of Flagstaff Mo. west of the fire lane/trail that leads up to the Flagstaff House Restaurant. I am no longer allowed in this area because it has no marked trail. I have lived in this neighborhood for 30 years. I regularly hike in this area and know trails and access routes that aren't Open Space marked trails. I doubt any of you can imagine what it feels like to me to know that I can not go into this area, ever again. In all my years of meandering there I have never encountered anyone else. It allowed me very special moments whether I was alone or with family and friends.

You, with your vote to endorse Habitat Conservation areas have created a division in what was previously a broad citizen wide support for Open Space purchases. People who endorsed the Habitat Conservation Areas engaged in the worse sort of unscientific fear mongering. Over and over I read about Open Space and their cohorts concerns that Open Space was about to be destroyed by hordes of people who would trample and ruin this precious thing the City had created (never mind the people who paid for it).

Most users of Open Space stick to paths contiguous to the City's boundary. This makes sense. Like in Rocky Mountain National Park, human traffic drops radically once one moves away from parking areas and controlled paths. Further, there was and is no evidence that the occasional user who managed to find their way into remote areas of Open Space harmed it.

Lake Valley Country Club north of the City is surrounded by a housing subdivision. This area has roads, golfers, bicycles, walkers, dogs - everything. Yet it is teeming with wildlife, birds, and a functioning prairie ecosystem. How is it that in an area so populated with people and their activities, the thing you and your Open Space officials claim will be ruined, in fact thrives? I've seen foxes with dens and kits on the golf course, right next to the cart path. Owls nested and raised 3 young in a tree so close to the ground that golfers could recognize the individual birds as they grew and fledged. Eagles routinely visit the area, as do migrating birds. The same can be said for CU South, the Flatirons gravel pit that Open Space was so upset to lose. When people and their pets do not molest wildlife, and the ecosystem is preserved in its majority (trails don't go through nesting areas, etc.), people and things that exist in an ecosystem (plant and animal) do coexist. These busy popular places prove the untruth of your paranoia about people ruining all YOUR pristine Open Space.

What do I predict for YOUR Open Space plans? Future attempts to raise money for more Open Space will be very fractious. The first thing voters will want to know is how much of the bond or tax money will be dedicated to Recreation versus Habitat Conservation Areas. You will look like fools asking people to spend their money for land that no one will ever even see, except of course for the Open Space officials, the scientists etc. who can go in to "study it". Open Space Rangers will become police whose sole job is to keep people in the corridors that the bureaucrats create for them. Open Space will look more towards fines and fees because bond and tax money will not be forthcoming. And, of course you will have you proof about how wretched human activity is to an area because as you corral people into to smaller, con-scribed areas, these places will of course look more used than the Conservation Areas where no one goes. Finally, the culture that is developing in Open Space (The ones who believe that people using Open Space will ruin it.) will become more entrenched. A sense of entitlement and ownership analogous to the Catholic Church's bureaucracy that administered its lands in the Medieval Ages will develop. Seriously, since mere citizens will no longer possess Habitat Conservation lands in the real sense of the word ("Guides" who allow a few to humbly walk to the edge and look, but don't touch.) - it will belong to the bureaucracy who administers it. They will show up to count birds, and measure trees and do whatever they do justify their pay check - but the land will not be shared with the common person who manages to find his/her way there, just because.

And please, spare me your bureaucratic rationale that the current permitting process to get into Conservation Areas will result in regular use by anyone. How sensible is it, when cars are a central component of climate change and environmental pollution, to require that people physically appear at the Open Space office 7 miles from central Boulder to get a Habitat Conservation permit? My bet is that Open Space intentionally is making it difficult to get permits because they don't want people to ask to for them.

I still am having a hard time believing that you, our honored Council, is so politically inept that you have been hoodwinked into adopting as baseless and unsupportable policy as this one is. You've allowed people with philosophies almost as radical as the Earth First nuts to hijack the Open Space program. You act as if the voters who have paid for your folly won't care or notice. Your next Open Space vote will be interesting.

I plan to read this out loud at your next council meeting. I'll forward it to FIDOS, and it will move into the hands of the people who opposed your closure of Open Space lands. Damage has been done to Open Space, not to the land itself, but to the good will and trust the Citizens of Boulder placed in you to adopt sane and reasonable Open Space Policies. You have failed in this and in the end the thing you claimed to be protecting will be harmed from loss of public support.

Julie McCabe

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