Longmont feels the heat, starts killing prairie dogs

In what’s sure to be yet another hot topic in the city of Longmont, Colorado, the wholesale extermination of prairie dogs at the Vance Brand Airport is under way.  What’s going to be interesting is the interaction between the city staff that moved forward on it, and a few on city council who spoke out against it – and of course a few vocal citizens.

If you’ve been following this story, which made the national news  – or looked at some of the pictures I posted a couple of days ago – it’s gotten pretty heated at times on both sides.  But it all boiled down to the Federal Aviation Administration and the Colorado Department of Transportation turning up the heat on the city with threats of withholding future grants, and rightly so in my opinion.  Safety is #1 at airports (and all of aviation for that matter), not this feel-good claptrap people have been caving in to too often lately.

I knew about the upcoming action but held off writing anything about it.  I knew it would bring unneeded heat to the people having to carry out this necessary step, who are now being portrayed as “torturers” in so many words by the activists here.  Longmont has a more than capable airport manager who’s doing the best job he can with the limited resources available, and at times limited support from the elected branch of the city.  I suspect he, along with his bosses and the city manager, will be painted quite negatively by these activists and even by some members of city council.  But city council was made aware of exactly what was coming down the pike.  It was in their council packet for the May 19th meeting, and in the following notice:

The City is ready to begin phase two of the prairie dog management program on the Airport grounds, tomorrow, May 21, 2009. All areas of the Airport grounds will be treated with the exception of the area behind the new wildlife barrier installed earlier this month.  A Wildlife Biologist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and on loan from DIA will be assisting the City during this process.

The focus of this portion of the management plan will be in burrow euthanization using a fumigant toxin known as Aluminum Phosph(ide).  Federal Wildlife Agencies, (The U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Department of Agriculture) indicate this fumigant has a 95% effective rate on first application.  Subsequent applications will follow in the next 30 days, approximately in one week intervals after the first application.  These applications will continue until all the prairie dogs have been removed.  After initial removal, the City will follow up accordingly with continuing fumigation for any prairie dogs found escaping the wildlife barrier or that reappear on Airport Grounds.

Crews will begin working tomorrow afternoon starting first in the runway and taxiway safety areas adjacent the Runway and Taxiways “A” and “B” and then spread into the other areas of the Airport.  The first application should be completed in two days time. Saturday work has been authorized if necessary and the crews work will not inhibit normal airport operations.

Also, please note that the Public Works Maintenance Facility (the City building just north of the Airport) will be receiving treatments during the same time period.

Many people on the Airport walk the Airport Grounds for exercise on a regular basis.  Some people even walk their dogs at the same time.  During the time of the applications, I strongly encourage people that walk for exercise to use St. Vrain road north of the Airport for an alternative route for the next thirty (30) days to avoid the crews working in the field and any exposure to the toxins being dispensed.  This fumigant is highly toxic if exposed directly and any dogs not on a leash have potential of being exposed. As a safer alternative, please use the Dog Park at the north entrance of the Airport.  As a reminder, City Code requires all dogs to be on-leash.

But the Times-Call is reporting that activists were carrying signs saying “Aluminum phosphide equals torture” and “City of Longmont stop poisoning our prairie dogs.” Since the Public Works area just north of the airport on Airport Road is still teeming with prairie dogs (as of 7pm Friday), I suspect these activists will be out there in force (until if/when they start fumigating there) trying to protect the remaining prairie dogs – or erecting little crosses which has been the case in similar situations around the Denver Metro area.

And this “torture” claim?  The obvious torture is having to endure this nonsense from a crowd with too much time on its hands.  But that aside, take a look again at that ridiculous fence the city just reportedly spent $12,700 on.  Contrary to the generalization that pilots/airports/etc are overflowing with money (a rather stupid assumption), that money could have done a lot of good at this airport for more serious things.

But down the drain it went.  Which is exactly the activists’ goal, suffocate the airport out of existence.  Irony can be so ironic.

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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