Ladies in Boulder in search of a prince now have new options if they’re looking in Boulder County open space.
Northern leopard frogs have been spotted in four different locations.
Here’s a bit from Laura Snider:
The speckled green frogs have already been discovered on open space land owned by the city, especially in the southern grasslands, but this is the first time that the springy amphibians have been documented on county lands.
Read more about these cute little hoppers at the Daily Camera: Now-rare northern leopard frogs found on Boulder County open space.
Three-hundred and twelve voters using voting machines were given incorrect text for much-discussed Boulder Issue 2B in early voting:
“The machines showed the correct title for Boulder Issue 2B, ‘Five Year Utility Occupation Tax to Replace Lost Franchise Fee Revenue,’ but the text was from County Issue 1B, which asks voters for a tax increase to support open space.”
Open space and energy efficiency in homes.
If it weren’t for the fact that most folks are in a financial vise right now, you might expect that issues like those would be shoo-ins for funding in Boulder County. And you’d be right — the track record is pretty strong. According to Erica Meltzer of the Camera, the Boulder County Ballot Issue 1A result is a bit of a change in course:
For the first time in 20 years, Boulder County voters have rejected a ballot issue to fund open space.
With 89 percent of the projected vote counted, Boulder County Ballot Issue 1A had received just 47 percent of the vote.
The measure would have extended by 15 years a 0.25-percent sales tax set to expire in 2019 that supports open space management and acquisition. County officials said they needed approval this year for an extension to fund long-term debt that would have allowed them to purchase open space now, while prices are lower and there is less competition.
Perhaps you recognize the northern leopard frog from the dissection tray in your high school biology class?
But have you seen one (alive) lately?
The northern leopard frog used to be easy to find across 19 states, including Colorado — and they were one of the key species fried up for frog legs.
But over the last few decades, the species has been on the decline.
Now the feds are out counting the small frog to see if the spotted amphibian needs protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The leopard frog is known to live in Boulder County. A 2006 study by the city’s open space department scoured 32 wetlands (which included ponds, intermittent streams and irrigation ditches) and found 172 leopard frogs.
Federal biologists believe leopard frog populations are currently undergoing a dramatic decline from vast areas of its historical range in the western United States and Canada. Read more
Things are grim in open space land.
Or at least in the Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks department’s pocket book, which is filled almost entirely by sales tax revenues. And sales in Boulder are down.
Already, the city has walked away from three land deals totaling 1,000 acres (see post below). Now, the city is talking about raising cash for open space by charging those who live outside the Boulder Bubble for using Boulder’s trails.
While the city has spent $208 million to purchase more than 45,000 acres of open space in and around Boulder since it began a systematic buy-up of land in the late 1960s, it still has more than 5,800 acres left in its master plan — at an estimated cost of about $100 million.
Among the suggestions for creating more revenue to fund those remaining purchases is to begin charging a fee for non-Boulder County residents who use certain city-owned trails.
City Councilwoman Lisa Morzel said she routinely sees people drive to Boulder’s open space to use its amenities, but never stop in the city to spend money on food or retail purchases. Sales tax on such items, she said, largely make up the budget for open space programs. Read more
Boulder has pulled the plug on four land deals that would have added 1,000 acres of open space to the the green doughnut of public property that surrounds the city.
Boulder made history in 1967 when residents voted to tax themselves to buy open space land — a first for the United States. Forty-two years later, the city owns more than 45,000 acres, and citizens are still taxing themselves.
Boulderites have given the city permission to go another $38 million into debt to buy more land, but grim sales tax revenues, a finicky bond market and ridiculously high land prices have acted together to grind the acquisitions program to a halt.
With no improvement in sales tax revenues this summer, the city let the contract on one property expire and put negotiations for three others on hold, meaning 1,000 acres of land remained in private hands instead of becoming public open space, according to a city memo on open space issues.
Ann Goodhart, division manager for real estate services for Open Space and Mountain Parks, said very few properties are on the market now, and those that are, are over-priced, in the city’s view.
“Sellers have not adjusted their expectations to reflect market conditions,” Goodhart said. Read more
Hello October. Goodbye bats.
The foothills west of Boulder are home to 11 different species of bats — more than a quarter of all the kinds of bats that live in the United States — including several sensitive species like the Townsend’s big-eared bat.
But just as local store windows begin filling up with Halloween costumes, Jack-o-lanterns and cobwebs, Boulder’s spookiest natural decorations (bats) are flying to higher elevations in search of the perfect place to hibernate: no so cold that the bat freezes, but cold enough for the bat to stay in it’s low-metabolism slumber.
Today is the last day of summer cave closures for roosting bats on Boulder open space land. Both the Mallory and Harmon caves, accessible from the NCAR trail head, are open to hikers and explorers starting tomorrow.
During the summer, the two caves are closed to protect colonies of mamma Townsend big-eared bats that are raising their pups. All summer, the mothers feed on insects and sip water at night before coming home to nurse their protected young. But once the pups try to fly on their own, it’s not always very pretty.
“The young are clumsy and awkward, and they get tired,” said Rick Adams, president of the Colorado Bat Society. “If they get too tired, or they hit a tree and fall, they end up on the ground. There are carnivores of all kinds that know where the bat roosts are.”
A baby bat resting on the ground is a treat too hard to turn down for a hungry skunk or coyote. In fact, surviving on their own is so hard for baby bats – they have to coordinate their flight, metabolic rates and a sophisticated echolocation system – that only 60 to 90 percent of the pups survive the first year. Those that do head to higher ground with their moms to sleep through the winter.
The population of bats in Boulder has been on the decline. The flying mammals are dependent on water sources to survive, and hotter, drier summers have scientists concerned about what climate change may mean for the future of Front Range bats, Adams said.
First it was the mysterious, wide-spread death of aspen trees.
Then it was the near annihilation of all of Colorado’s mature lodgepole forests by a plague of pine beetles.
Now, the forest service is worried about limber pines and their relatives in the white pine family, including the ancient bristlecone pines.
The combination of blister rust — a non-native fungus — and pine beetles, which also feed on limber pines, is killing off the ancient trees at unprecedented rates.
The U.S. Forest Service has recently beefed up a campaign to save limber pines by looking for the hardiest trees and collecting their cones.
From last weekend’s Daily Camera:
On Saturday, the first of several groups of volunteers organized by Boulder County’s Parks and Open Space Department will scour the mountains west of Boulder in an effort to save the limber pines by collecting their cones.
The cones — and more importantly, the seeds they contain — will be handed off to the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station, where researchers will cultivate young pines, searching for the healthiest individual trees.
“We’re going to test the resulting seedlings for resistance to blister rust, an introduced fungal pathogen,” said Thomas Crow, manger of the limber pine program. “It’s part of a more proactive approach to management.”
Read more posts about forest health on BigGreenBoulder:
|Beetle-killed trees threaten Colorado power grid||Rocky Mountain aspens could disappear by 2090|
With just a few minutes to spare until midnight, the Boulder County Board of Commissioners wrapped up a seven-hour-long public meeting on whether to allow GMO sugar beets on publicly owned farm land… by unanimously deciding not to decide.
Instead, the commissioners asked county staffers to begin working on a plan for how to deal with all types of genetically modified crops.
In 2003, a different set of commissioners voted to allow GMO corn on county open space land leased to farmers, but stipulated that each new genetically modified crop would need new permission. This means that when farmers asked to grow GMO sugar beets last December, the request ate up hours and hours of staff time and triggered three public meetings that drew hundreds of locals.
And even if the beet question was put to bed Tuesday, herbicide-resistant wheat and drought-resistant corn are just around the corner, waiting to pull the county back into another long debate.
“We do not want to be in a position of doing hand-to-hand combat about every GMO seed,” said Commissioner Will Toor at Tuesday’s public hearing.
Last night’s decision by the commissioners to create a larger plan could save time in the future, but for now, it means that there’s no end in sight. (Last time the county debated GMO corn, it took nearly three years to get a decision.)