Resolve to protect wildlife | AspenTimes.com

Resolve to protect wildlife

Dear Editor:

How about starting 2008 resolving to help protect local wildlife? On Thursday, Jan. 10, at 8:30 a.m. at the Carbondale Town Hall, the RFTA board will be deciding whether or not to accept their wildlife biologist’s recommendations to extend the closures on the new Rio Grande bike trail to help encourage the return of the heronry that deserted their eggs when the trail was opened too early last year.

Although the 200 members of the local Audubon Society, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, local wildlife biologists, and nearly everyone else with the courage to address this controversial issue has asked for longer closures, the more vocal members of the RFTA board are lobbying to do the opposite and drop closures altogether, sacrificing the remaining wildlife for year-round use of this trail.

The trail is very beautiful and overwhelmingly popular. This does not, however, dismiss us from our responsibilities to wildlife. A bike trail through the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area would be even more beautiful and just as popular if everyone could be convinced by local leaders that it really wasn’t doing any harm. In fact, it really wouldn’t be as harmful to wildlife as the Rio Grande Trail.

The Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area is just summer habitat for most wildlife, which is not nearly as limited as the winter habitat threatened or already destroyed by the new trail. When animals are displaced from their remaining winter habitat, they are removed from the population. It would be difficult to find another area where so much wildlife could be impacted by a few miles of pavement.

In addition to herons, the wintering bald eagles have abandoned their DOW designated winter habitat along this stretch. This could have been avoided if RFTA had merely followed the requirements of their categorical exclusion to close the trail by Nov. 1. The Audubon Society and DOW have also requested earlier closures to protect eagle habitat. RFTA’s own wildlife study states that the greatest impacts to deer, elk and eagles occur during late October through November when these animals are migrating back to this area.

We can still have a great bike trail without destroying our wildlife if we are willing to share just a little. Please attend this meeting or forward your comments to the RFTA board through Mike Hermes at mhermes@rfta.com.

Jim Duke

Carbondale


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