Recreation versus wildlife
Dear Editor:I am 100 percent in favor of trails, even through the middle of my otherwise very private little paradise, as long as they are environmentally sound and wildlife compatible. The trail being constructed between Hooks Lane and Catherine’s Bridge is far from either. Even now I’m watching a huge cloud of dust from a semi-truck driving down the corridor drift out over and into our gold medal trout waters of the Roaring Fork. There has been no dust control, and there are no sediment barriers for this huge construction project not 10 feet from the river. After all, RFTA, as they stated in a recent Aspen Times article, is not bound by any rules, regulations, laws of any sort or, apparently, by any conscience. They have dishonestly circumvented any concern or mitigation for wildlife through what is called a Categorical Exclusion which allows government projects to bypass any sort of environmental assessment if they can prove no significant environmental impacts including “Threatened, endangered, candidate and other special concern species” or any impacts to wetlands. This corridor includes all of these in abundance and couldn’t conceivably be less qualified for this exclusion. Until RFTA bladed it off (a completely forbidden act for anyone subject to regulations), much of this corridor was impassibly dense with coyote willow, horsetail, spotted alder, sedges and many other species used by the U.S Corps of Engineers to define wetlands. So rich are these wetlands that they were able to grow back even through the raised railroad grade and reclaim their lost turf temporarily (now a large road grader goes by, scraping off more willows and spewing another cloud of dust into our waters).Ignoring the rights of landowners along the corridor is one thing. I can relate to this. A few must suffer for the betterment of many. And while I believe this could be accomplished without such utter disregard for our surrounding property rights, we are hardly poor, helpless innocents. But the blatant misuse of this Categorical Exclusion for the sole purpose of cheating the environment and its wildlife out of what little legal protection they have should not be tolerated for any reason. A large portion of RFTA’s funding comes from a Division of Wildlife grant specifically designated by the conditions of the grant agreement to be used to protect wildlife and its habitat. They are using this money to circumvent the laws protecting the wildlife!Jim DukeCarbondale
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