Abusing our rangers – and our land | AspenTimes.com

Abusing our rangers – and our land

Dear Editor:

It is unfortunate that Nikos Hecht, former hedge-fund trader and now local developer, was so abusive to our ranger Trevor Washko, telling Trevor that he, Hecht, had contributed a million dollars to the trail system, threatening the ranger, saying that he would see to it that Trevor would lose his job, and then later lying about the whole incident.

Such conduct is not only unbecoming but, I’m sure, an embarrassment to the Hecht family and friends. At the very least, Nikos should give the ranger a written apology, and at best, he could now contribute that million dollars he lied about to the county open space program. They could certainly use it, for resources for enforcement and education in the open space program are limited.

This whole incident speaks to a greater problem that all the enforcement and education of our like-wilderness lands will never be fail-proof. While resources are limited, what the Open Space board should do, to protect this critical wildlife habitat is to close it off indefinitely to all mechanized vehicles, bikes, dogs and hunters.

When I first came to Aspen in 1967, we had more than 280,000 head of elk in this valley. Today we have only 30,000 head. The wildlife managers say they are simply not reproducing as they once did due to the fact that their habitat has become increasingly more fragmented with trails, roads, development and encounters with humans. Their stress rates go up radically each time they encounter humans, particularly moving bikes, autos or dogs. Wildlife experts say the adrenal glands go into stress mode, which in turn lowers their reproduction rates, hence the drastic decline over the years.

I personally feel that the entire Droste property, now Sky Mountain, should be permanently off limits to everyone for a few years until the elk and deer populations have a chance to recover. This is what they have had to do in certain islands of the Galapagos where visitors and tourists have loved the island habitat and its fauna to its own destruction.

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The Droste property, Sky Mountain, is one of the last remaining wildlife corridors in this valley. The county bought the property to protect it since we were losing so much to development in Snowmass with Aspen Skiing Co.’s development of Burnt Mountain and its summer biking-trail system.

At the very least, we should look at longer closures and limit usage of Sky Mountain to hikers, who tread lightly on the environment, disturbing least our dwindling wildlife resource.

Junee Kirk

Aspen