Pitkin County considers limited hunting on open space | AspenTimes.com
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Pitkin County considers limited hunting on open space

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Pitkin County open space officials are pondering how to accommodate limited elk hunting on the former Droste property, now part of Sky Mountain Park outside of Snowmass Village.

Hunting traditionally occurred on the land when it was in private hands, and wildlife officials with Colorado Parks and Wildlife would like to see the agency continue to help manage the elk herd, according to Gary Tennenbaum, land steward with Pitkin County Open Space and Trails.

It’s likely that a draft management plan for Sky Mountain Park will address hunting in some manner, according to Tennenbaum. Exactly what will be proposed remains under review, but if hunting is allowed, it would only be on the former Droste property, he said. The draft plan isn’t expected to be released to the public for comment until late this month.

Sky Mountain Park is composed of various open space parcels that total some 2,500 acres in all. Its centerpiece is arguably the land acquired from the Drostes – the ridge that separates the Brush Creek and Owl Creek valleys, outside of Snowmass.

The master plan will address future trail construction, habitat restoration and other management efforts in the mountain park. It also is expected to reinforce a winter closure of the park – Dec. 1 to May 15 – which is already in effect. The state’s final rifle season for big game occurs in late November, so it’s possible to accommodate a narrow window for hunting on the property before the winter closure and when use of the ridge by hikers, bikers and equestrians has dropped off considerably.

“Is it viable to try to do hunting when people are on that property, or is it not?” Tennenbaum said. “When is the best time to do it, and what are the potential conflicts with regular use?”

A handful of tags for cow elk are contemplated if hunting is allowed and the county would manage the program, he said. No motorized access would be permitted.

Envisioned habitat improvement in Sky Mountain Park could make hunting even more critical as a management tool, Tennenbaum added.

“If you do all this improvement and let the wildlife use it as a refuge, they’re going to hammer it,” he said.

The target release date for the draft management plan is Feb. 27. Then the public will have about a month to offer input. The goal is to have the plan adopted by the county, Snowmass Village and the city of Aspen – the partnership that has acquired the various pieces of Sky Mountain Park – by the May 15 opening of the properties.

janet@aspentimes.com


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