For city, airport safety falls somewhere behind prairie dogs

I received the following letter from Longmont airport pilot Doedo Schipper and think it’s important enough to spread around. As many of you know, I have defended the airport in the past against city officials who didn’t have its best interests at heart and screwball neighbors who’d rather it close, destroy its businesses or worse.

An ongoing problem at the airport are prairie dogs. Forget about the politics of it that we hear endlessly at City Council meetings, and look at the safety aspect of it. As you’ll see in this letter, and other places in the past, the proximity of prairie dogs, or any wildlife for that matter, to runways and airplanes is a dangerous mix.

Sorry, but I put human lives way out in front of these animals. Lets grow up a little and leave the quaint discussion of these cute little furry animals in the proper context. The press isn’t notified when one of these is ran over on a city street, they are however when an airplane is forced off a runway or crashes because of these animals or the birds of prey they attract. Contrary to what you might think, the world doesn’t revolve around these rodents, so can we give it a rest already? Safety though is a serious, grown-up matter.

I’d like to know which council members directed staff (City Manager Gordon Pedrow and Parks Manager Don Bessler) to change policy in this area. Here’s the letter:

I am writing about an issue that concerns all of us at the airport. Safety, the last couple of years the rodents (prairie dogs) have gotten out of control. The city has been addressing this by building a rodent fence in an effort to limit the rodents to the fenced area. This has clearly not worked. Airport volunteers have been assisting the airport manager to eliminate more rodents. This only worked modestly due to the limitations set by the city on what methods were allowed to used.
The airport manager has been directed by Don Bessler ( parks manager) and Gordon Pedrow (city manager) to work with a non airport volunteer, Mrs Ruby Bowman, to try to relocate the prairie dogs by filling in their burrows. Those of us that fly can clearly see that this has not worked either.
Where and how did Mrs Bowman get involved? Mrs Bowman does not follow the established lines of communication at the airport like the Airport Advisory Board or the hangar owners and airport user group meetings. For her this has nothing to do with the airport and is all about her interest in the welfare of prairie dogs. Mrs Bowman speaks frequently at council meetings and in this way she managed to get support from Gordon Pedrow. It is possible that Mr Pedrow is being directed by specific council members. My questions about this have not been answered.
So far Mrs Bowman has now succeeded in bringing to a halt the many years of prairie dog management at the airport. The city is about to spend $30,000 on an even larger and sturdier fence. The money will come from the monies set aside to build a bathroom this year.
We can not stop this nonsense without your help. This is what we need to do. Its is more obviously effective to call council members directly and express your displeasure about this . I already have and spoke with the mayor. Now it is your turn. Call one or all of them , their numbers are at the bottom. Keep your concern focused on safety. Prairie dogs undermine the runway and taxiways, their burrows and mounds have caused damage to airplanes that inadvertently went of the runway. People are getting hurt. Multiple skydivers have been injured already over the years. A fenced enclosure anywhere on the airport is a potential danger to airport users coming in with an emergency.
The mayor has already confirmed that Gordon Pedrow will come to the next advisory board meeting and explain why he felt it was necessary to ignore every airport user, the FAA and the Colorado dept of Aeronautics. He will explain why he reversed his own decision on exclusion management and why he recommends spending $30,000of your tax dollars on a prairie dog fence that will endanger airport users and limit airport activities. Call and email now.Roger Lange 303 772 0065 /
Brian Hansen 303 847 7186 /
Karen Benker 303 774 7745 /
Sean Mccoy 303 847 6076 /
Mary Blue 303 772 3890 /
Sarah Levinson 303 847 1647 /
Gabe Santos 303 774 1795 /
Then call John Bauer at the FAA, Denver FSDO 303 342 1259 and state your concern about the hazards of prairie dogs on the airport.

Doedo Schipper

About Chris Rodriguez

Chris is the editor/publisher of LightningRod Blog - as well as founder/editor of Wrongmont, Longmont Advocate, Vote!Longmont, Longmont Politics, the LightningRod Radio Network, as well as being the original Longmont Examiner. Chris is a writer and talker - whether it be blogs, podcasts, music, or public speaking. When he's not heard on Air Traffic radio, he can be heard on his podcasts or seen in the local paper causing trouble.
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One Response to For city, airport safety falls somewhere behind prairie dogs

  1. Dave Larison says:

    Ruby Bowman, aka Prairie Dog Woman, has cost the city countless hours of staff time and thousands of unnecessary expenditure dollars in her crusade to place the interests of animals above the welfare and safety of the people. Bowman was recently appointed to the Parks & Rec board by a 4-3 council vote. You guessed it–Hansen, McCoy, Benker, and Levison voted in favor–and some say there is no such thing as the Bloc of Four controlling Longmont politics?

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