Donate!

Donate!

Colorado Front Range Bald Eagles Need Your Immediate Help!

 

Stearns male brings in prairie dog to nest in 2018

October 24, 2019

Boulder County Parks and Open Space (BCPOS) is actively engaged in or authorizing a policy that allows full extermination/removal of prairie dog populations in very close proximity to active Bald Eagle nests.

With respect to the eight active Bald Eagle nests and one alternate nest on or adjacent to BCPOS-managed property, BCPOS owns and manages approximately 1,500 acres of land within the ½-mile buffer around active nests. Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has determined these buffers to be critically important for protecting Bald Eagles from unlawful (and harmful) take, including in the form of disturbance to eagles’ normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behaviors in the vicinity of the nest.

Buffer zones for Front Range Eagle Nests where elimination of prairie dogs will negatively impact existing eagle population by depriving the eagles of their main source of food. (click image to enlarge)

Of those 1,500 acres within ½-mile of active Bald Eagles nests, approximately 895 acres (60%) are currently designated No Prairie Dogs (NPDs) under its Prairie Dog Habitat Element of the Grassland and Shrubland Management Policy (“PD Policy”). Nearly 100% of Boulder County open space land in or adjacent to 5 of these nests are designated as NPD.

As a result, BCPOS is actively engaged in or authorizing a policy that allows full extermination of prairie dog populations in very close proximity to active Bald Eagle nests, which is removing one of the primary prey bases for federally protected Bald Eagles and impairing their normal feeding behaviors and related biological functions.

Representatives from Front Range Nesting Bald Eagle Studies (FRNBES) met with senior BCPOS staff on October 17 to discuss targeted changes to the Boulder County Parks & Open Space (“BCPOS”) Prairie Dog Habitat Element of the Grassland and Shrubland Management Policy (“PD Policy”). During the course of the meeting, we were told that based on past history of Bald Eagle nest success in the county, BCPOS staff saw no reason to discuss or consider any changes to the current Prairie Dog Management Policy.

Stearns Bald Eagle Nest and pair in 2018; construction as close as 540 feet away; photo was taken during weekend when there was no construction. (Click image to enlarge)

FRNBES reminded BCPOS senior staff that past nest history has no bearing on recent and future impacts on nesting eagles, which are and will be related to explosive human development in and around Boulder County. As an example, we discussed the Stearns Lake Bald Eagle nest in Broomfield, where the current landowner of the 70 acres under the eagle nest intends to exterminate all prairie dogs on his property. This land is directly adjacent to the 90-acre BCPOS Trillium property—currently designated as No Prairie Dogs (NPD). FRNBES studies demonstrate that the Broomfield nesting eagles hunt extensively and depend upon prairie dogs from both of these properties.

Past nest history—the reason stated by BCPOS staff to justify their lack of interest in modifying the existing policy—-also does not account for the 288 apartment complex that is still being built about 600 feet from the Broomfield nest tree. Currently, the nesting Bald Eagle pair are attempting unsuccessfully to re-nest east of their nest tree, conclusively due to disturbance from the nearby development. In addition, past nest history certainly does not account for the near absence of suitable old-growth cottonwoods in this area to build a new nest.

BCPOS is currently supporting a PD management policy that will very likely cause harm to nesting eagles. What is more, this policy violates the spirit of a federal law (BGEPA) intended to protect eagles. BCPOS staff has clearly placed a priority of agricultural leased land over the needs and rights of what should be federally protected eagles.

 

FRNBES is well aware that BCPOS staff alone cannot mandate changes to the current management PD management policy. However, we also clearly understand that their support and willingness to rectify these issues would be critical in any future changes made to protect and sustain prey sources for our nesting eagles.

It may be likely that the current landowner of the Broomfield conservation easement property—70 acres where the current nest tree stands- can exterminate ALL prairie dogs on his conservation easement property. Thus, as citizens of Boulder County, we even more so depend on an agency like BCPOS to make the right decision on their adjacent 90 acres to the nest. Continuing a policy of NPD on open space land owned by Boulder County residents—not BCPOS—is an insult to all of us that value and are committed to protect nesting eagles.

City of Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks is Doing it Right! It is notable that City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) also manages open space land that hosts two active Bald Eagle nests. We appreciate OSMP’s policy around Bald Eagle nests. Both of these open space properties are designated as overall Habitat Conservation Areas (HCA’s), and on these lands around the eagle nests, there is no extermination or removal of prairie dogs allowed.

Advocate For Our Bald Eagles!

Boulder County Parks and Open Space (BCPOS) is currently supporting a prairie dog (PD) management policy that will very likely cause harm to nesting Bald Eagles. In addition, this policy violates the spirit of a federal law intended to protect eagles. Please write to the BCPOS Director Eric Lane, and the Boulder County Commissioners (all email addresses listed below), and insist that they preserve prairie dogs within 1/2 mile buffer of nesting Bald Eagles. Emails should be sent prior to November 15, 2019.

Contacts for letter:

BCPOS Director Eric Lane: elane@bouldercounty.org

Boulder County Commissioners:

Elise Jones: ejones@bouldercounty.org
Deb Gardner: dgardner@bouldercounty.org
Matt Jones: mjones@bouldercounty.org

You May Also Like…