Longmont City staff have completed a draft of the Wildlife Management Plan update. This draft can be read here.
Because the Wildlife Management Plan directly informs the protections for wildlife and habitat and riparian and stream protections within Longmont’s Land Development Code, it is crucial that the Wildlife Management Plan update “get it right.” Therefore, we’re asking that the following changes be made before it is adopted by Council. Our full comments can be found here.
We strongly urge you to consider writing to City Council in support of the below recommendations and/or to speak during public invited to be heard when the Wildlife Management Plan update is scheduled to be discussed at an upcoming city council meeting. We’ll announce when that is as soon as we hear when that will be.
|Table 1. Suggested Changes to the Draft Action Table|
|Draft Action from Wildlife Management Plan||Suggested Change||Rationale for change|
|1.1.c/2.1.g For any project in which the City is the applicant/proponent (e.g., road or utility crossings of streams, construction of greenway trails), design the project to avoid or minimize habitat loss to the extent practicable, even if such loss could be permitted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (pages 95 and 97 of WMP)||Currently the action type for this recommendation is BMP (best management practice).
We recommend codifying this language by placing it into the Land Development Code.
|We believe the City of Longmont should be held to the same standard as private developers.|
|5.2.a. Adopt a BMP for City lands that establishes a minimum setback of 150 feet and a preferred (where practicable) setback of 200 feet or greater for trails, roads, and other facilities within or along riparian corridors, including ditches that support riparian trees and shrubs. Exceptions may include crossing points of bridges and portions of soft-surface, pedestrian-only “nature trails” that may approach more closely in limited areas for wildlife viewing. Lighting shall generally be discouraged on trails near riparian areas or other high-quality habitat areas. However, if there is an expressed community need for lighting, the city should install lighting that meets the community’s needs while also being as “wildlife friendly” as is feasible given the trail location and project budget. (page 112 of WMP)||5.2.a. Adopt a BMP for City lands that establishes a minimum setback of 150 feet and a preferred (where practicable) setback of 200 feet or greater for trails, roads, and other facilities within or along riparian corridors, including ditches that support riparian trees and shrubs. Exceptions may include crossing points of bridges and portions of soft-surface, pedestrian-only “nature trails” that may approach more closely in limited areas for wildlife viewing. Lighting shall generally be discouraged on trails near riparian areas or other high-quality habitat areas. However, if there is an expressed community need for lighting, the city should install lighting that meets the community’s needs while also being as “wildlife friendly” as is feasible given the trail location and project budget.||Artificial lighting disrupts animals’ breeding and foraging behaviors, increases the risk of predation, impedes navigation and migration patterns, and may even lead directly to death (some evidence suggests artificial lighting may increase mammalian roadkill; insects become disoriented by lights and may die in light fixtures). Because of this, artificial lights should not be installed near our wildlife habitats.|
|5.2.d. As funds and staff resources allow, gather baseline data on wildlife presence and use throughout Longmont. This may include, but is not limited to, species inventories, presence/absence surveys, habitat suitability assessments, citizen science BMPs, pre- and post-project monitoring, etc. With such foundational data, the City will better understand wildlife and habitat conditions prior to impacts by a project or a natural disaster and will be able to use these conditions as a reference or baseline for restoration. (page 113 of WMP)||5.2.d. As funds and staff resources allow, gather baseline data on wildlife presence and use throughout Longmont. This may include, but is not limited to, species inventories, presence/absence surveys, habitat suitability assessments, citizen science BMPs, pre- and post-project monitoring, etc. With such foundational data, the City will better understand wildlife and habitat conditions prior to impacts by a project or a natural disaster and will be able to use these conditions as a reference or baseline for restoration.||Baseline data are crucial to understanding what wildlife are in the city, where they are, and when they are present. Without these data it is difficult if not impossible to manage and protect Longmont’s wildlife. Therefore, we recommend prioritizing such data collection and striking the phrase “As funds and staff resources allow.”|
|5.2.e. As funds and staff resources allow, map and assess riparian corridors throughout the Longmont area to define “reaches” based on similar vegetative structure and composition (and thus wildlife habitat quality). These designations can be used to guide restoration projects or inform the approval of and requirements for variance requests. (page 113 of WMP)||5.2.e. As funds and staff resources allow, map and assess riparian corridors throughout the Longmont area to define “reaches” based on similar vegetative structure and composition (and thus wildlife habitat quality). These designations can be used to guide restoration projects or inform the approval of and requirements for variance requests.||As stated above for action item 5.2.e., baseline data collection should be prioritized. Therefore, we recommend striking the words “As funds and staff resources allow.”
We also recommend striking the words “or inform the approval of and requirements for variance requests.” Even if one “reach” of a riparian corridor contains poor wildlife habitat, it may still connect two higher quality wildlife habitats upstream and downstream to maintain a functioning wildlife movement corridor. Allowing variances within such areas may fragment wildlife habitat by destroying the movement corridor. This could lead to local extirpation or even extinction.
|5.3.b. Create a new staff position of Environmental Planner. This individual would be responsible for attending permit hearings, reviewing applications, and coordinating with Natural Resources staff to ensure field verifications of reported conditions are performed as needed. (page 115 of WMP)||We recommend that the Environmental Planner position report to the Natural Resources Director, but be housed within the Planning Department.||Having the Environmental planner report to Natural Resources, but having them be housed with Planning will allow better communication across departments. The Environmental Planner position is a cross-departmental position by nature.|
|5.3.c. Prepare a “toolkit” of mitigation strategies (specifically wildlife avoidance and habitat enhancement and restoration techniques) that can be incorporated into the Longmont Development Code Administrative Manual. This will provide developers with basic strategies that can be implemented to fulfill habitat and species conservation requirements. The existence of this toolkit will not absolve the developer of the requirement to retain a qualified individual to prepare the Species or Habitat Conservation Plan. (page 115 of the WMP)||A link to the Development Code Administrative Manual should be provided in the Land Development Code.||Incorporating the Development Code Administrative Manual by reference in the Land Development Code rather than including the entire manual within the text of the Land Development Code saves time on updating the code, but this manual should be easily available online on the city’s website (and the LDC online should include a link to it) so that developers/the public can find and review it. This increases transparency and will help facilitate compliance.|
|5.5.h. Consider expanding the current requirement for a Species or Habitat Protection Plan by establishing a process by which a developer is required to pay a wildlife or habitat mitigation fee to the City for loss of important habitats or wildlife that cannot reasonably be avoided by the proposed development. The purpose of the fee would be to assist the City in acquiring new or maintaining existing habitats that represent the same type of wildlife use. Examples include native plant communities, wetlands, riparian corridors, and areas of mature trees (if desirable species). (page 118 of the WMP)||This recommendation should be removed.||If a development cannot avoid the loss of important wildlife or habitats, it should be rejected outright. This is a loophole by which a developer can pay a fee and buy their way out of ensuring their development does not negatively impact habitat and wildlife. No amount of money paid can get those habitats and/or wildlife back.|
|Table 2. Rationale for Amendatory Language Changes|
|Location of change||Change||Reason|
|15.05.02(F)(3) Variances from the Setback Standards||Removal of increased setback standards and reduced setback standards and replacement with tweaked standards from Fort Collins’ Land Development Code
Addition of Public Works and Natural Resources as an advisor to city council in its decision regarding a reduced setback request.
Addition of a 2/3 vote of city council being needed to approve a reduced setback request.
|On May 20, 2019, Stand provided staff and council with a document advocating for the update of the criteria for a reduced variance as the current criteria are vague, ambiguous, and set a low bar for developers to obtain approval to build within the 150 foot setback. Despite this, the same poor language has been kept in the Wildlife Management Plan. This is the primary reason we believe council should go with option 2 so that Fort Collins’ more robust language can be incorporated into our code.
Despite the fact that the recommendation to have Public Works and Natural Resources involved in riparian setback variance applications was included in the draft action table (5.3.a. on page 115 of the WMP), they were left out of the revised amendatory language in 15.05.020 on page 124 of the WMP.
Despite the recommendation in the draft action table (5.5.l on page 119 of the WMP) that a 2/3 majority of city council approve a reduced setback request, this was left out of the revised amendatory language in 15.05.020 on page 124 of the WMP.
|15.05.030(E) Habitat and Species Database||Revision of the sentence “Any site-specific studies undertaken by the applicant and accepted by the city shall be used in place of any of the cited maps or data” so that site-specific studies may be used “in conjunction” with cited maps or data.
Removal of the words “Colorado Division of Wildlife” and the use of “Colorado Parks and Wildlife” in their place.
|The city has previously accepted poor quality site-specific studies undertaken by the applicant in lieu of studies using data provided by reputable sources such as Colorado Parks and Wildlife. This shores up that loophole.
This section contains several places where the old name of Colorado Parks and Wildlife is still used. Replacing Colorado Division of Wildlife with Colorado Parks and Wildlife is consistent with current terminology and with revisions made later in the amendatory language cited in the WMP.
|15.05.030(F) Review Procedures||Removal of the words “For applications referred to it”. The sentence would instead begin “Colorado Parks and Wildlife…”
Addition of the words “Boulder County Parks and Open Space,” after the words “City of Longmont Public Works and Natural Resource Department.”
|As stated in our May 20, 2019 document, the review procedures have already established that these measures shall apply accordingly, necessitating Agency involvement. This language was in the previous Land Development Code and likely was simply copied and pasted so this is a simple fix.
Boulder County Parks and Open Space is another qualified Agency that we believe should specifically be called out in the amendatory language as an Agency that may review development applications.
|15.05.030(H)(2) Species or Habitat Conservation Plans Plan Content||Removal of everything in the opening paragraph after the first sentence:
15.05.030 H(2) Plan Content. A conservation plan shall include the following information, at a minimum, and as applicable. The director may waive specific requirements due to the development’s location, previous use of the site, the size and potential impact of the development, the absence of particular species on a site, the prohibition of a reasonable use of the site, and other relevant factors
|This is a potential loophole that could be exploited to allow an applicant not to complete a species or habitat conservation plan.|
|15.10.020 ‐ All Other Terms Defined||Add “Boulder County Species of Special Concern” under the list for the definition of “Important Plant or Wildlife Species”||The list of Boulder County Species of Special Concern is a useful reference that should be able to be consulted for those interested in what species are considered important plant or wildlife species.|