RFTA trail harms wildlife | AspenTimes.com

RFTA trail harms wildlife

Dear Editor:Having read my husband’s letter (“Recreation versus wildlife”), I can see it needs some help. He’s not good with details. He needs to document his claims, so here’s the documentation:”The Division of Wildlife recommends a buffer zone of 1640 feet around active heronries to avoid disturbance and subsequent impacts” (Page 21 of Categorical Exclusion). By RFTA’s own estimate their trail passes about 400 feet from the closest nest (Page 22 CE). They have been conducting some of the noisiest construction possible along this stretch for months. Have you ever heard several tons of railroad steel dumped from 10 or 15 feet high into a 40-foot steel box? It’s hard to imagine that’s not physically damaging some sensitive little ears, much less having “no impact.” RFTA has claimed no significant impact here based on their “facts” that this heronry started as the result of irrigation practices which have since changed, causing a decline in heronry population from 22 active nests in 1999 down to six active nests in 2002 (Page 22 CE). I guess their implication is that this heronry doesn’t really belong here and is almost gone anyway. “No impact.” Good thing they’re not in charge of all endangered species.In their first paragraph (the part they know everyone will read) under “Threatened and Endangered Species” they concede that the Canadian Lynx “potentially could travel through the corridor” (Page 20 CE). A couple of pages later (long after most readers have gotten bored), they casually mention that lynx tracked with radio collars have already been recorded using this corridor (Page 22 CE). They still manage to declare “no effect on lynx” because “most recreational activity will occur during daylight hours and lynx are crepuscular or nocturnal” (Page 22 CE).Included in the official comments from the Division of Wildlife are the following statements from Appendix A of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement:”As the corridor proceeds south towards Aspen from Carbondale, wildlife issues start to emerge.” “The remaining flood plain function is more important than ever for protecting water quality, channel morphology and fish habitat.””Careful planning will be necessary so increased use does not adversely affect resources to which users are drawn.””Some wildlife will habituate to high-density use and continue use of the property while more popular and highly visible megafauna are less likely to do so.””We are concerned that the corridor may not be able to accommodate all public expectations while protecting and preserving wildlife habitat. Therefore, use of the affected corridor remains of keen interest to the DOW.””The final grant proposal prominently lists the protection of wildlife and wildlife habitats as the primary project purpose.”Rather than addressing these concerns, RFTA has interpreted them as “no impact” so they could completely circumvent them. This is all public information, and I encourage everyone to take the time to read through it.Kathy DukeCarbondale