Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park
 

 

Thursday, March 22, 2007 – 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Loveland Library MP Room

 

The mission of the Larimer County Open Lands Program is to preserve and protect significant open space, natural areas, wildlife habitat, develop parks and trails for present and future generations.  These open lands provide opportunities for leisure, human renewal and protection of our natural and cultural resources.

 

 
 

 

 

 

 


Present:

Open Lands Board Members:

Brian Hayes

Bob Streeter

Jean Carpenter

Peter Kast

Sue Sparling

Ted Swanson

Bill Pinkham

Jim White

Duane Pond

Mark DeGregorio

 

Staff

Gary Buffington

Kerri Rollins

Meegan Flenniken

Charlie Johndon

K-Lynn Cameron

Lori Smith

Maxine Guill

Kathay Rennels

 

Absent: 

Bill Newman

Ben Manvel

 

Chair, Peter Kast called the meeting to order at 5:16 p.m.

 

Duane motioned to approve the February minutes.  Sue seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

PUBLIC COMMENT

No public comment

 

INFORMATION ITEMS

·  The Parks and Open Lands Annual Small Grants Awards and Auction Fundraiser (benefiting Hermit Park) was held on March 9, 2007 and was a great success!  Gross proceeds totaled $15,500 to benefit the acquisition of Hermit Park and the net was $12,600.

·  Ernst Strenge will be leaving the Open Lands Program on March 21, 2007.  He and his family are moving back to California.  He has accepted a position as Restoration Ecologist with Restoration Resources in Rocklin, California.  We will sorely miss him as he was a great addition to our team.  His position as Open Lands Resource Specialist I is currently being advertised.

·  Windy Kelley has accepted the Open Lands Technician Limited Term Employee (LTE) position.  She will be starting April 2.

·  A rehabilitated Northern pygmy owl was released to the wild at the Bison Visitor Center on March 15, 2005 by Jerry Clemens who found the injured owl on County Road 31 last November.

·  You are invited to a reception for the Parks and Open Lands Visual Artist of the Year will be held on March 27, 2007 at 4:00 pm on the 2nd floor of the Courthouse, 200 W. Oak.  The two pieces of art work by Jim Disney will be displayed in the lobby of the County Commissioners office for 1 year.

·  The Parks Task Force will meet on April 10, 2007 in Loveland.  The draft Parks Master Plan can be viewed and comments made at www.larimer.org/parks.

·  “Wind Power and Ferrets” – a field trip to learn about 2 separate topics – wind power production and re-establishment of the black footed ferret – is scheduled for Thursday, May 31, 2007.  Meet at the Platte River Power Authority office ( Timberline and Horsetooth) at 8:00 am.

 

BOARD COMMENT: none

 

PRESENTATION

·  Management of weeds on Parks and Open Lands – Maxine Guill

Maxine presented a Power Point presentation with a handout.  She reviewed the types of controls used for weeds: mechanical, chemical, biological, preventive and cultural.  She also reviewed county and state noxious weed lists and the treatments for A and B list species.

 

Maxine highlighted treatments in 2006 for a few properties, including Red Mountain Open Space (RMOS) where 5,553 acres were scouted and 136 acres sprayed. Texas blueleaf was a rare weed that was sprayed at RMOS this year and is one to watch for. Chimney Hollow was treated for musk and Canada thistle, and moth mullen.  Maxine discussed some odd weather issues (dry and windy, low precipitation in spring - fall, and above average snow in winter) that affected the treatments in some areas, often causing the need for reapplication.  With the winter snow, cheat grass will be a large issue this year. 

 

Bob asked if the conservation easement language would address weed management more strongly on the potential trade portions of RMOS to continue what the County has started.  K-Lynn said that was a good point to look in to.

 

The Weed District received a $42,000 grant from National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) “Pulling Together Initiative” to control Tamarisk along the Big and Little Thompson rivers.  The District moved to their new location in Fort Collins east of Timberline Dr on Mulberry.  Their storefront operation will be housed there. 

 

The EPA has instituted a new labeling program that dictates how chemicals should be used when applied near an endangered species habitat.  Larimer County uses these guidelines for federal and state endangered species as well as important plant communities as identified by the Colorado natural Heritage Program (CNHP).  Also on the label, the EPA mandated an indication of which nozzle type to use when applying certain chemicals. 

 

In 2007, the Department will be finding a replacement for Mike Carroll, the former manager of the District.  They will also continue the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, paid internships, and revegetation projects.  They will start controlling at Hermit Park, continue work at RMOS and apply for grants for Mediterranean sage from the Department of Agriculture. 

 

 

Bob asked about the effectiveness of the Small Grants Program and applicants like Front Range Community College who used their grants to help control weeds on Parks and Open Lands.  Maxine said they were very effective and saved the Department a lot of money.  Bob asked how the District enforces the need to eradicate weeds on private property.  Maxine said the District only enforces within their boundaries, and if the landowner doesn’t comply with a 10-day notice then the District will come and take care of the weeds for a fee.  The fee is lienable to the property if the owner does not pay.

 

DISCUSSION:

·  Conservation easements – IRS Audits and Tax Credits – Jill Ozarski, Executive Director of Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts (CCLT).  Jeff Jones, Executive Director of the Legacy Land Trust. 

 

Jill reviewed the mission of CCLT as a statewide umbrella organization for land trusts and local government open space programs.  Jill has only been with CCLT for about 3 ˝ months and her time has been spent almost solely on this issue.  This is a federal and state issue.

 

Federal – Going back 2-3 years, congress opened an investigation on conservation easements brought to their attention by the media.  There were a few bad apples (by overvaluing easements or by entering in to a quid pro quo situation) that were drawing the intense scrutiny on all easements.  A nationwide audit of 500 easements took place.  250 of those took place in Colorado.  Of the 500, 125 of those were historical facade easements that primarily took place on the east coast.  At that point, the IRS insisted they were just collecting data. 

 

Senators Salazar and Allard got involved to help get more answers from the IRS.  A series of congressional briefings have taken place since then.  The IRS has since disclosed that of the 250 audits in Colorado, the IRS found flaws in 247 of them.  The IRS defined “flaws” as the donation was overvalued or if the conservation value of the property was questionable.  They defined conservation value as needing significant natural habitat that had to be occupied endangered species habitat.  They had used these arguments in a court case in Michigan that they lost in tax court, appealed, and lost in the appeals court. 

 

Jill believes there is a lack of understanding from the IRS of how a landowner gives up a value on the land (like a conservation easement), but still owns it.  The implications are that landowners now believe that if you do an easement right now, you will get audited.  This has reduced the number of easements being done.  Another consequence was that the IRS told the State Legislature their findings.  When the State Legislature heard that there is a tax program that cost them $87 million in 2005, and the IRS says there are flaws in the easements, they questioned the program – such as where are the location of the easements that received this tax money. 

 

Conservation organizations have a responsibility to strengthen the program and monitor it more closely.  House Minority Leader Alice Madden is helping support the program through introducing a late bill at the House that will help do that.  The Bill will add more information about the easements that are in place when a tax credit is claimed.  The most important part of the Bill will be that the tax information will be public, so agencies like CCLT can track them.  Easement holders will have to submit an annual report to the state with information such as responsible Board or Government Officials of the entity, value of the easement, etc.  The Bill will show that the tax credit program is transparent. 

 

Currently over 200 landowners in the state will need to defend their easements.  CCLT will serve as a clearing house to share information and get advise from lawyers and CPA’s.  Hopefully this will help the effort be more cost effective.  Defending these easements will be critical to all Colorado easements. 

 

Bill asked about the land Trust Alliance's efforts to provide land trust accreditation that will show that land trusts can be counted on to manage easements in to perpetuity.  Jill said that program is just about in place.  Bob asked about policies that a Board like OLAB should be aware of.  Jill said within the accreditation documents there are applicable parts about standards and practices of accepting easements for local governments.  CCLT is working with the Colorado Open Space Alliance (COSA) on formulating these.  Talking to legislators about the benefit of easements is also a good thing.  Jim asked why did they focus on Colorado and what happens, if anything, to the people who buy the tax credits.  Jill said she does not have the legal knowledge to answer the second part of the question.  There is a list of reasons as to why Colorado received so much attention from the IRS.  One main reason was there were some sketchy deals that were reported to the Department of Revenue who was responsible for enforcement.  Since they did not want to research them, they turned it over to the IRS.  Kathay asked if the federal level is permitting the states to make changes and implement them to improve the situation, or is the IRS coming down the pike no matter what.  Jill said that when you open up the issue at the legislature you run the risk of them taking away the program all together.  Mark asked is it just land trusts or are there local governments being audited.  She said she has heard of both being audited.

 

·  Financial, Acquisition and Development:

Lori reviewed the enclosure in the packets and directed the Board to turn to page 3 of the cash flow spreadsheet.  She pointed out that most things were carried over, with the exception of Hermit Park that was added.  She pointed out that in 2007-2010 there are years that we are projecting to spend more than we are bringing in, but cumulatively we have enough to cover the costs.  Peter clarified that if we get the funds raised for Hermit Park that it would add to that number.  Per Gary’s request, the Regional Park Fees have been separated out, however on another line it shows the total as if they had not been separated out.  K-Lynn pointed out the change in the cost of the development for Red Mountain Open Space (RMOS).  Peter asked about the changes at Chimney Hollow.  The opening has moved to 2012 so we can build facilities as the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District builds the proposed reservoir. 

 

Lori then discussed the Management Fund spreadsheet.  The Fund shows revenue from RMOS for rangers doing monitoring work on adjacent properties.  Also, there is $50,000 loan from this fund to the Parks Program for Hermit Park startup funds.  There is also a contingency emergency fund of 10% will also be set aside each year.  This will help with unexpected costs in areas such as natural disasters.  Bob asked about Horsetooth Mountain Park (HTMP).  By transferring HTMP to the Open Lands Program it will cost about $2,000,000 of our management dollars, which will take away from other projects over the next 11 years.  Bottom line in 2018 there is $23,338 unspent dollars.  K-Lynn noted that to remain in the black at the end of 2018, we must continue to charge user fees at HTMP till 2018.  Lori also noted that the spreadsheet does not reflect pay back of the $50,000 loan to the Parks Program for Hermit Park management costs. 

 

·  Open Lands Staffing – We will be hiring a new Resource Specialist, an LTE Open Lands Tech I, a new part time Colorado Conservation Trust (CCT) fellow, and a new intern.  K-Lynn is beefing up on staff because of the workload.

 

·  Hermit Park Open Space Update – Meegan said she’s gathering information on local homeowners associations, and met with the county Building Inspector.  Results of this meeting were fairly encouraging, showing we need things like smoke detectors, etc in the cabins to meet building code.  Initial inspections are encouraging about keeping the propane lamps.  Meetings with CDOT on the entrance from Highway 36 show we will likely need to add turn lanes in to the Park.  This will need to be constructed by the time the park opens completely to the public.  The County will be looking at the water and sewer lines for recommendations on having public use.  The State Archaeologists will spend a week in July looking for cultural resources, and CNHP will be there in June looking for specific species of toads and other reptiles associated with wetlands.  Electric lines would likely need to be phased in as lines would need to be run up the road. 

 

ACTION:

·  Revision to the Recognition Policy for Open Lands Program – In light of the Hermit Park fundraising efforts, staff are proposing a change to item number 3 on the Recognition Policy that specifies that donors need to give $1,000 to get their name on the kiosk of that open space.  Staff propose to change the amount to $10,000.  Jim asked if would be excluding donors by increasing the amount so drastically.  Mark clarified that the name of the cabins would not change to the name of the donor.  Jean clarified that if the contributions go to the Friends Group, donors get the same deal.

Bob motioned to recommend to the Director to increase the donation amount required to receive recognition at a kiosk from $1,000 to $10,000.  Duane seconded and the motion passed unanimously. 

 

DIRECTORS REPORT

·  Gary reported on the Parks Master Plan in the information items.

 

EXECUTIVE SESSION: (24-6-402(4) (a)C.R.S. Purchase, acquisition, lease, transfer or sale of any real or personal property interest. Duane moved to go in to Executive Session at 7:48pm, Ted seconded and the motion carried unanimously.   

 

The meeting was adjourned by a motion from Duane.  The motion was seconded by Jean and carried unanimously.  The meeting was adjourned at 8:05 p.m.

Background Image: Rocky Mountain National Park by Sue Burke. All rights reserved.