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Group tries to avert housing near owl habitat

Posted at 9:09 PM, Jan 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-26 23:09:50-05

A group in Boulder County is asking for a wildlife preserve to benefit a family of great horned owls that live next to potential development.

The Boulder Great Horned Owl Preserve was created in response to a 10-acre area that's being looked at for development in the county. The land is adjacent to Twin Lakes Open Space and is up for discussion as an area to help the county tackle its issue of expensive housing. However, that's only one of a dozen ideas the county is considering.

Living in Twin Lakes is a family of owls who have made a particular tree home for 30 years. The owls are famous for raising young year after year in the same high stump. Ken Beitel, chair of the boulder great horned owl preserve, said the owls need the 10 acres of land to hunt for food. 

"Naturalists have told us if the development proceeds, the great horned owls will abandon their nests and no longer be here," Beitel said. "We would like the board to say not tot he development proposal and say yes tot he Great Horned Owl Preserve."

County officials want to keep the owls safe, however, affordable housing is the city and county's biggest issue. Currently, it's difficult for essential community workers, like teachers and firefighters, to live in Boulder's expensive housing market. Affordable housing is targeted at those skilled laborers with lower income.

"Any development that would be done would be sensitive to the owls, but they're not on this particular piece of property," said county spokesperson Michelle Krezek. "Owls, according to our wildlife biologists, are very habituated to being around people, mostly because they do hunt at night. And they do live near development."

The county planning board is looking at the issue Tuesday night. However, they will only be deciding whether or not any of the dozen proposals will continue with the approval process. There's not way to say what commissioners will choose to do with the land.

Boulder Great Horned Owl Preserve has created a petition online that has raised more than 1,600 signatures so far. They hope the county can find a way to keep the 10-acre field from development.