Recreation versus wildlife
September 10, 2007
Bike trails are obviously a good thing. They are at their best when designed to be environmentally sensitive and are truly useful for alternative transportation. They cease to be so good when their popularity is used as an excuse to disregard environmental issues, wildlife habitat, and property rights.
In the three most controversial stretches of the local bike trails ” the Rock Bottom Ranch area of the Rio Grande Trail, the Crystal River Trail, and the river stretch through Glenwood ” there are perfectly feasible alternative routes. Each of these alternative routes would provide far better opportunities for alternative transportation having better access for more people and leading to more places that people might otherwise drive. These environmentally useful alternate routes would also be much less impactive to wildlife habitat and private property. In each case our local leaders have chosen to compromise environmental ethics, practicality, and property rights in favor of the route with the best view.
The best view is generally the least disturbed area, which is likely the best wildlife habitat. Obviously, the closer to rivers you are, the greater the impacts, especially for eagles and herons. These trails are not about environmentally sound transportation, educational nature trails, or environmentally friendly anything. This is recreation industry dressed in green.
What is so sacred about bike trails that place them above all these otherwise important considerations? How can our local leaders, who would not otherwise disregard the rights of others, feel justified in taking property and privacy away from entire neighborhoods? Not because these are the only possible alignments or even the best alignments, but because they like the views better and believe them to be more marketable. How can RFTA pave through several critical wildlife habitats displacing even specifically protected species such as bald eagles and great blue herons? Why is it so easy for our local environmentalists to pretend these impacts are not real? Is it just an unfortunate coincidence that the largest blue heron rookery
in the Roaring Fork Valley was abandoned one week after the bike path opened?
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We can have better bike trails without compromising wildlife or our values and integrity.