CONSERVATION NEWS

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…

Thursday, June 7, 6 – 7:30 pm
Kane Ranch Master Plan Open House

El Paso County Parks and Design Concepts invites citizens to attend the Kane Ranch Open Space Master Plan open house, which will be held on Thursday, June 7th, 2018, at the Fountain Creek Nature Center, 320 Pepper Grass Lane in Fountain. The open house is scheduled from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm. The public is invited to learn more about the project and voice opinions about the future of the Kane Ranch Open Space, including recommended park and trail improvements, management, and maintenance.

Project team members will present a brief background on the unique history of the Kane Ranch, site analysis maps, and conceptual alternatives for the Master Plan and proposed Phase I Improvements for Kane Ranch Open Space. Following the open house, the project team will consider public and stakeholder input during the development of the Master Plan, which will be available for public review in late June 2018.

Review and adoption by the Park Advisory Board and Board of County Commissioners is anticipated in July 2018, with the first improvements to follow soon thereafter in the fall and winter of 2018-2019, which will be funded by regional park fees and Ballot Question 1A Funds. Public input will assist El Paso County in managing this wonderful County property, determining recreational needs, and solidifying recommendations for improvements and management in the years to come.

For more information, please contact Bill Gotthelf, Senior Project Manager at Design Concepts at 303-664-5301, or via email at BillG@dcla.net, or contact Ross Williams, El Paso County Community Services Department Park Planner at 719-520-6984, or via email at rosswilliams@elpasoco.com.

Take a hike on the Kane Ranch…

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.

We’ll see if Transit Mix decides to appeal the decision.

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.

mccrae-reservoir-001Widefield 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.)

More Hot Topics

  • Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has initiated a formal comment period as part of a process to weaken or eliminate landmark conservation plans that are helping to ensure the survival of the Greater Sage-Grouse. (Learn more…)

  • Protect the Arctic Refuge

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge still urgently needs your help, even through the bill opening it to oil and gas exploration has passed. We must continue to spread the message that this iconic American treasure, which is home to 200 species of birds, should not be opened to exploration. (Learn more…)

Aiken Conservation Team

Would you like to get more involved in local/regional issues? If so, please contact Conservation Chair Linda Hodges at hikerhodges@gmail.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!

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