Brief Response from City Staff on the Owl Issue

Photo Courtesy Wikipedia

From Ashley Feeney
Assistant City Manager

Assistant City Manager Ashley Feeney issued a response to emails and public comments that were critical of a city decision on burrowing owl habitat at Mace 25. In a message, he stated:

1) There is no habitat easement or official destination for the property or policy direction that ensures the property is safe or managed for owls to live;

2) It would be irresponsible to promote a sensitive wildlife species to use a site where they could potentially be placed in harm’s way (i.e. an adjacent development application is under review where, though not agreed to, a portion of the property is being sought for an ag buffer;

3) Our wildlife biologist, John McNerney, recommends a passive deterrent through not mowing the property, which would encourage the owls to relocate to more suitable habitat that is actively managed, like the nearby Wildhorse Ag buffer;

4) The area the owls have been using is right next to Mace, which is a terrible place for young chicks.

It would be better to have them move to a safer area that doesn’t risk vehicle mortality or potential artificial relocation mortality.

Our staff is looking out for the long-term health of the species through thoughtful decision making.

 

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6 Comments

  1. Matt Williams

    Let’s deal with Ash’s four points in reverse:

    4) What Ash appears to be saying is that City staff are better informed than the Natural Selection process of the Burrowing Owl species in knowing where the best habitat is for establishing their burrows and raising their young.

    3) I believe a more accurate statement would be, Our wildlife biologist, John McNerney, recommends a passive deterrent through not mowing the property, which may or may not encourage the owls to relocate to more suitable habitat that is actively managed, like the nearby Wildhorse Ag buffer;

    Regarding 3) it would be both useful and transparent if Ash and John also provided a linear-over-time report of how successful or not successful the City’s Burrowing Owl efforts have been at the nearby Wildhorse Ag buffer.

    2) Rather than putting the cart before the horse and making a Burrowing Owl decision based on speculation, perhaps it would be good government to proactively deal with the question of adjacent development’s application to use City land as a private ag buffer, and then make the Burrowing Owl decision based on a Council Resolution.

    1) The owls that have established their residence on the property don’t seem to be bothered at all by the lack of any habitat easement or official destination [sic] for the property or policy direction that ensures the property is safe or managed for owls to live;

    1. Bill Marshall

      Natural selection includes doing nothing on the property… nothing at all…

      Mowing the grasses is not natural selection…  nor is placing artificial burrows.

      For that matter, working to stave off covid-19 is not natural selection, either…

      1. Matt Williams

        Bill, I respectfully disagree.  The burrowing owls have selected their nesting burrows naturally.  They have not selected their nesting burrows artificially … or with human intervention.

  2. Alan Pryor

    Our staff is looking out for the long-term health of the species through thoughtful decision making.

    What a hoot! (Pun intended) If it were truly thoughtful decision-making, the process would have taken place before the Open Space and Habitat Commission and with public and expert input. Open hearings were also promised by each of the current Council members.

    Staff had a perfect opportunity to discuss this issue with the Open Space Commission at their monthly meeting just one week earlier and before the email saw the light of day. Staff deliberately chose not to do and instead made the decision secretively and hidden behind closed doors from the Commission and the public.

    This decsion was made by John McNerney (who has proven he is no Burrowing Owl or habitat expert) after consulting with Ash Feeney (whose main responsibility these days is to ensure ARC gets entitled) and City Manager, Mike Webb. Neither of those later two have any environemntal training or credentials whatsoever.

  3. Alan Pryor

    …encourage the owls to relocate to more suitable habitat that is actively managed, like the nearby Wildhorse Ag buffer.

    Do you mean the same “actively managed” Wildhorse Ag buffer where all the Burrowing Owls have left because the City did such a crappy job keeping the invasive grasses mowed?

    1. Keith Olsen

      I walked and ran that ag path around the Wildhorse golf course for years.  There used to be fairly large population of burrowing owls there but they all but vanished a few years back.  I’ve always wondered what happened to them.  So yes, I have wonder how moving the Mace owls over to there is going to benefit them?

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