Amendment 74 Could End Colorado’s Environmental Regulations
By Jen Boulton, Audubon Rockies Lobbyist
If you value your health, birds, and the environment, vote against it.
What if environmental regulations ceased to exist in Colorado? Development restrictions to protect Important Bird Areas? Gone. Required buffer zones for wildlife migration? Gone. Regulations on industrial discharges to streams? Mining reclamation standards? Scrubbers on smokestacks to protect your air? Gone, gone, gone.
If Amendment 74 (A74) passes this November, all this and more could happen. In essence, A74 would require Coloradans to pay industry not to pollute their environment and poison their families.
Here’s how it would work:
A74 would require governments to compensate property owners for any reduction in property value as a result of a government regulation. Since no level of government in Colorado operates at a surplus, the only option would be to eliminate regulations. Proponents claim that the measures protect private property rights, but in reality they elevate commercial property owners over all others.
A74 isn’t specific to the environment; it targets ALL regulations that cost money to comply with. Restaurant health regulations cost money, so those would also be eliminated. Zoning regulations—like prohibiting adult bookshops next to schools—would also be off the table.
One important caveat is that the requirement for compensation only applies to the property owner seeking to avoid regulation. Suppose you’re a surface owner of a split estate and the mineral rights owner wants to drill in your front yard. Could you claim compensation if your property value plummeted as a result? No, because your loss in value would not be due to a regulation. Good news though: you could operate a landfill in your backyard!
Lastly, the amendment only applies to private owners and increases costs to the public. Governments would still need to meet regulations and could face significantly higher costs to do so. For example, federal water standards would still apply to public water providers, so Denver Water and others would still need to provide safe drinking water. The water flowing into their facilities, however, would be significantly more polluted as a result of nonexistent regulations on upstream industries. It’s pretty easy to guess who would have to pay the increased treatment costs: you.
If you value Colorado’s environment, vote against Amendment 74.
Given the extreme threat to public health, the environment, and the quality of life in Colorado, A74 is the most dangerous issue to appear on the ballot in over 20 years. If you care about birds, wildlife, or your health, vote no on A74 and tell your friends to do the same.
Audubon Lawsuit Seeks to Restore Protections for Migratory Birds
WASHINGTON – A coalition of national environmental groups, including the National Audubon Society, the American Bird Conservancy, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, National Wildlife Federation, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, today filed litigation, National Audubon Society v. Department of the Interior, in the Southern District of New York challenging the Trump Administration’s move to eliminate longstanding protections for waterfowl, raptors, and songbirds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). Learn more…
Hwy. 115 Quarry
Hitch Rack Ranch Quarry Permit Denied!
Stunningly, on Thursday, April 26, the state Mined Land Reclamation Board voted 3-2 to deny Transit Mix Concrete’s (TMC) quarry permit request. As you may recall, the quarry would have been adjacent to the Aiken Canyon Preserve. This was the second application TMC had submitted—the first being denied in 2016 for hydrology and wildlife concerns. Hydrology proved to be the sticking point on this go-round as well. At the eleventh hour, the board felt the application didn’t meet the standard for groundwater.
April, 2018: The Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining, and Safety has recommended approval of Transit Mix Concrete’s application.
The Mined Land Reclamation Board (MLRB) will hold formal hearings on Wednesday, April 25, and Thursday, April 26, at 9am, at the Hotel Elegante in southern Colorado Springs. Anyone may attend, although if you didn’t attend the April 9 meeting, you will not be considered a party to the lawsuit, and therefore will not be allowed to speak. Please consider attending in any case—having a large number of attendees should help the opposition.
Should the MLRB approve the permit, it would then go to the El Paso County Board of Commissioners for approval.
October, 2017: Transit Mix Concrete reapplied (on October 5) for a permit to quarry on the Hitch Rack Ranch. The ranch is adjacent to Aiken Canyon Preserve, which is managed by The Nature Conservancy. Changes in this application include decreasing the acreage from 400 to 200, and placing the quarry only on the south side of Little Turkey Creek Rd. The expected lifetime of the quarry has been decreased from 55 to 30 years. Transit Mix would build a road solely for truck traffic, though Little Turkey Creek Rd would still be closed any time that blasting occurs. There will be a 48-day public comment period, then about a 3-month review process before a decision is made by the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety. Aiken Audubon took a stand against this project the first time around. Once all the information is in, we’ll decide whether comments are warranted.
Aiken Audubon has taken a position opposing the quarry.
Centennial Extension through Sondermann Park
It appears that Sondermann Park will remain intact for another year. Work continues on the section of road between Centennial and Van Buren. Once that’s completed, the Voluntary Clean-up of an undocumented trash site will begin, and should be wrapped up by summer of 2019. At that point, the phase that will impact the northeast corner of Sondermann—building the road from Van Buren to Fontanero—is expected to start. You might want to make use of birding the property now, while the habitat remains undisturbed.
Colorado Springs’ Tree Removal Projects
Beginning in mid-January of 2017, the city of Colorado Springs began cutting swaths of ponderosa pine, Douglas fir and scrub oak in Stratton Open Space as part of a fire-mitigation plan. Fearful that the city foresters might not be aware of potential owls and other raptors nesting in the area, Aiken contacted them about their project. To the city’s credit, they altered their plans to clear out an area near a Cooper’s Hawk nest before nesting season began. Additionally, they hope to wrap up the project by the end of March, which will avoid disturbance of most nesting avifauna. It’s upsetting, however, that the foresters didn’t seek input from anyone in the birding community.
Steve Getty and Aiken Conservation Chair Linda Hodges have spent a good deal of time on the property, and are concerned about the vast amount of understory that is being removed, as well as a plan to dramatically clear a birdy riparian area along the Stratton Springs Path. Many of you wrote to the forester, asking that a greater portion of the understory be kept intact. It remains to be seen if the city will comply.
The project will continue in parts of Austin Bluffs Open Space and Bear Creek Canyon. If any of you are aware of owl/raptor nests on those properties, please let Linda know.
Widefield Community Park Master Plan
In the recent draft master plan, recommended action items include the installation of a seasonal floating wildlife observation platform on McCrae Reservoir, and improvements to the tunnel leading to the reservoir under Fontaine Boulevard. It will likely be five to ten years before funding allows implementation.
Big Johnson Reservoir
Wondering what’s happening to Big Johnson Reservoir? Here’s what we know…
Pinello Ranch Wetlands Mitigation
Mitigation work is finally wrapping up at Pinello, which included removing Russian olives, tamarisk and some small cottonwoods, and creating almost ten acres of wetlands in three separate sites. This is expected to enhance wildlife habitat and vegetation diversity on the property. This project was done to mitigate wetlands disturbance along the Southern Delivery System southeast of Marksheffel and Bradley Roads. It should take about 3 to 5 years to fill in completely. Meanwhile, birding at Pinello, which is a Colorado Springs Utility property, is limited to a few outings per season. See the Current Field Trip page for any 2018 trips. (There are none scheduled at the moment, although several guided trips to neighboring Venetucci Farm are available.)
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Aiken Conservation Team
Would you like to get more involved in local/regional issues? If so, please contact Conservation Chair Linda Hodges at email@example.com and join our activist team. You choose what level of involvement you’d like: from doing research, to writing legislators to simply receiving occasional updates. Let your voice be heard!