Boulder will expand lethal and nonlethal prairie dog mitigation on irrigated agricultural land under a plan City Council members approved early Wednesday morning in an 8-1 vote, with council member Mirabai Nagle dissenting.
Council members voted on the measure about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday as part of a public hearing that had to be extended after dozens of people participated in the Aug. 11 hearing to speak against lethal control.
The plan will increase lethal and nonlethal control of prairie dogs on land managed by Open Space and Mountain Parks north of Jay Road and west of the Diagonal.
Starting in 2021, the plan calls for removing 900 to 1,200 prairie dogs each year by relocation and 3,000 to 6,000 prairie dogs each year by “in-burrow humane lethal control,” which uses carbon monoxide. The plan also calls for installing barrier fences, starting soil restoration and allowing agricultural activities to resume that could damage burrows.
At the meeting, Nagle spoke passionately against killing prairie dogs, at times tearing up, and proposed four amendments to the plan that mirrored suggestions by advocacy group Keep Boulder Wild.
“It’s heartbreaking that this is what we’ve degraded ourselves to do. It’s heartbreaking this is what we’re using our tax dollars for,” she said.
Nagle’s amendments included allowing stakeholders to do a parcel by parcel analysis to determine whether lethal or nonlethal control would be most effective and to collect baseline soil data; to terminate a special use permit in 2022 that allows agricultural activities to damage burrows and to restrict those activities to land identified for lethal control; for staff to consider outside funding and resources to increase relocation efforts; and to engage in a “collaborative shared learning process” about prairie dogs led by people other than city staff.
Council member Adam Swetlik also proposed amendments on annual project reporting, collecting baseline soil data and reevaluating lethal control if there’s a resurgence of plague.
While council members debated those amendments at length, they were ultimately rejected over concerns that the City Council was micromanaging the staff. City Council members, including Mayor Sam Weaver, indicated they were open to issuing some of the proposed amendments as guidance to city staff instead.