Agencies improve Light Hill habitat |

Agencies improve Light Hill habitat

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Colorado Division of Wildlife have been clearing the top of Light Hill in Old Snowmass to make room for large game. (Contributed photo)

OLD SNOWMASS ” Two agencies ” one federal and one state ” have been ripping out trees and scraping the ground at the top of Light Hill in Old Snowmass for the last couple weeks, in what officials say is an attempt to improve the habitat for big-game animals.

The work, according to David Boyd of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, formally is named the “Light Hill Habitat Restoration Project.”

Boyd said that the Light Hill area, which is atop a steep hogback just south and west of Snowmass Canyon adjacent to the Highway 82 corridor, is “one of five major, critical winter range areas on public land in the Roaring Fork River drainage.”

As such, he said, it is considered essential to the survival of a variety of animals, including large herds of elk and deer that have been pushed out of other winter range terrain that increasingly has been developed in recent years.

The 537-acre tract, he said has become densely overgrown, and that it is “mostly thick, overgrown oak brush,” which he said is “not very good habitat” for big game.

Earth-moving equipment and work crews have been clearing patches of the brush, in preparation for fire crews to come in and “burn the slash” to further open up the terrain and make natural food sources “more accessible” to the wildlife that lives there, Boyd said.

But the burn, he said, will not take place until next spring, when the underbrush will be relatively moist after the winter’s snows.

“It’s essentially mimicking what fire would do” if left to the natural cycles of nature, he said.

Another benefit of the project, he said, is a reduction of the threat poised by wildfire. In removing some of the “fuel” that can turn a small brush fire into a massive inferno, he said, the project lessens the danger to nearby homes and ranches in Old Snowmass .

He said the Light Hill project is similar to one in the Prince Creek area near Carbondale. The brush was cleared out last year, he said, and the spring burn was completed last week.

Efforts to reach officials of the Colorado Division of Wildlife, which also is taking part in the project, were not successful.