Protecting wildlife |

Protecting wildlife

Dear Editor:I am writing to you in response to the Friday, Jan. 5, Aspen Times article stating that the no-dog ordinance at the Burlingame affordable housing project is being revisited.Mayor Helen Klanderud is right. A comprehensive agreement approved by Aspen voters in May 2005 includes a promise to keep dogs out of the Burlingame project. I especially agree with Helen’s statement that the no-dog ordinance was not only in response to the Bar X cattle ranching, but also in response to environmental concerns about the impact of this development on wildlife.Another very important part of the agreement negotiated between the Bar X Ranch and the city is a requirement that free market housing sites honor setback regulations at the edge of the valley because it is a vital migratory route for large- and medium-size mammals.Frequently, it is only the wealthy that can afford to live on acreage adjoining or surrounded by pristine wild areas. Certainly some of the most sought-after and valuable home sites in Aspen are the ones over looking the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and Hallam Lake. Right now the city has a unique opportunity to make Burlingame just as special.Burlingame is located two miles from town, nestled in the middle of 100-plus acres of wild open-space. If dogs and cats are allowed, there will be inevitable conflict between domestic pets and wildlife. Dogs and cats will quickly eliminate ground-nesting birds such as grouse, nighthawks, snipe and towhees, as well as ground-burrowing mammals like marmots, ground squirrels, chipmunks and cottontails that are currently abundant. Deer depend on the shady cover of scrub oak on Deer Hill to raise their fawns. Deprived of their food source, more adaptable animals such as fox, coyote, raccoons and bear will be forced to turn to your pets to survive – provoking a bloody battle for years to come.Instead of attempting to reverse the no-dog ordinance and impose urban life on a wild environment, embrace the wildlife: Offer the first affordable housing community that is not only a great place to live, but also a responsible steward of the land. The cityof Aspen has publicly stated its commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainability. This is an opportunity to “walk the talk.”I believe houses at Burlingame are being built with the use of green construction methods. In addition, landscaping could be planned to accommodate wildlife movement; trails could follow natural contours; flowering plants, native bushes and trees could attract hummingbirds, butterflies and migratory birds; a pond in the plans could be designed to attract and retain wildlife year round; and a small star gazing observatory has been suggested. Opportunities to live with nature and value wildlife abound.By preserving wildness in and around Burlingame it will be possible to delight in hearing native songbirds, watch the antics of ground squirrels or marmots or a family of grouse, gasp at the sight of nesting eagles, marvel at the call of migrating birds as they circle the pond, or appreciate the calls of coyotes in the dark and the crash of bucks in rut in the fall.City Council will be addressing this issue at a work session on Feb. 6, at 5 p.m.Stephanie SoldnerAspen