Playing with nature | AspenTimes.com

Playing with nature

Dear Editor:There’s finally a little good news on the horizon of the Rio Grande Trail. Jonathan Lowsky, RFTA’s wildlife biologist, seems to be a man of great integrity and sincerity. He refused to be cornered by RFTA board members trying to coax him into stronger support for their trail. Among other things, he resisted being persuaded into agreeing that the fairly quiet, low density development north of the heronry was more impactive than their trail would be.Given a little more freedom, he might have mentioned that several hundred (soon to be several thousand) brightly clad pursuers of endorphins might create impacts many are unaware of. Some of the most popular of these bright colors, for instance, mimic nature’s strongest and most universal warning colors. Yellow on black, orange on black, and red on black are progressively more serious warnings shared worldwide by bees, corral snakes, black widows, Gila monsters, poison dart frogs – the list is endless.The study of these color patterns includes Mullerian and Batesian Mimicries which describe various relationships between species such as bees and wasps where their similar color codes help to reinforce each other’s warning systems while the innocuous Viceroy Butterfly mimics the toxic Monarch to its own benefit while weakening the Monarch’s protection. Our random color codes weaken this whole system.These are some of the tidbits taught my own children along the same nature trail RFTA proposes to use for the education of others. While I applaud this effort, it saddens me that the rich lessons my own children enjoyed will be compromised by the presence of hurtling warning signs screaming out “DANGER! STAY AWAY!” several hundred times a day. Yes, “some wildlife may habituate,” but only at the expense of survival instincts. Habituation is always a tradeoff against survival abilities.Posturing can be a fairly universal language too. Next time a hunched-over biker turns his head to offer a friendly smile, imagine what a cat would be telling you by the same posture. You don’t have to be Dr. Doolittle to talk to the animals. We all do. Many of us just don’t know what we’re saying.For advice on preserving the nature of nature trails, RFTA might read “Ranger Rick” or “My Big Back Yard.” The values we try to instill in our children should remain valid throughout our lives. Instead, I watch President Bush auction off My Big Back Yard in White River while our local leaders “sell out” Ranger Rick’s wildlife. Maybe our color codes aren’t so random. We are the greatest danger. It’s curious that both these “sell-outs” occur for the sake of education. Amid such abundant concern for education, it appears the only place future generations might study nature will be in history classes.Jim DukeCrown MountainCarbondale