Ease the pressure on bighorns in Crystal Valley | AspenTimes.com

Ease the pressure on bighorns in Crystal Valley

A recent letter argued that the proposed Crystal Trail should not be viewed as a serious risk factor in the health of our local bighorn herd and called for Colorado Parks and Wildlife to develop a research-based plan for managing these animals ("Pedestrians, bikers won't post threat to bighorn sheep in Crystal Valley," Sept. 1, 2017, The Aspen Times).

The letter cited the Colorado Parks and Wildlife's supposed negligence in studying causes of the herd's decline and in implementing a management plan and stated that the species has shown to be adaptive to people and therefore a trail through their breeding grounds should be inconsequential.

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife budget woes are no secret. Officials are forced to make hard decisions on allocation of limited funds. There is no money for the type and scale of studies needed to reach a definitive conclusion as to the causes of the decline of local bighorns, nor are there adequate resources to implement an intensive management plan. Despite this, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials have been researching our bighorns for years now and have been doing a great job with what few resources they have.

So while state and federal governments are figuring out agency budgets, we the local people need to do what is right for our natural resources. We do not know fully why our bighorns are declining, but it doesn't make sense to plow ahead in further encroachment on their habitat because they "appear" to be adaptive. We have been wrong in the past about wildlife health as it relates to human activity, so let's not do something we will regret. Our national history is one of rape and pillage when it comes to natural resources — consume in greed and deal with the consequences afterward.

While they may appear to be adaptive and a trail through their prime habitat may not decimate them now, it is one more pressure, one more squeeze on their ever-shrinking home. Habitat loss and/or human impact has been cited as a factor in every instance of species decline I have ever encountered. A trail interrupting their access to water, precious winter range and lambing grounds may very well be the straw that breaks the camel's back in this particular herd. Let's use some caution and restraint.

Mollie Shipman

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