Trails and habitat can coexist
Dear Editor:The Division of Wildlife conducts what’s called a “1313” meeting twice a year to receive public input. At the “1313” meeting in Carbondale on March 1, a citizen asked what could be done to address the increasing numbers of elk occupying local golf courses for increasing periods of time. The DOW speaker replied that this was the direct result of habitat loss. He went on to say that they are suffering more habitat loss every year and are forced to reduce herd numbers every year to accommodate it.What RFTA is proposing to do up the Crystal River and has already done in the Rock Bottom Ranch area is taking literally thousands of acres of critical habitat away from our big game and a wide variety of other wildlife. When a bike trail cuts off access to water, it severely impacts huge areas. Even if RFTA were to increase seasonal closures to include November – the month that migratory deer, elk and bald eagles are known to return and were last year scattered away from this area by trail users, and even if RFTA were to maintain these closures, which appears very unlikely with RFTA’s track record and the public demand for ski trails – just RFTA’s decision to allow hunting access along this trail alone will force most of these animals out on the golf courses with the rest.One of the main reasons this was such good habitat was its inaccessibility. The most important [part?] of this habitat, right above the Rock Bottom Wildlife Preserve, used to be accessible only from the Prince Creek side requiring hours of rough travel without any roads or trails leading into this area. With RFTA’s decision to provide hunting access, a 20 minute stroll down a paved trail can put anyone on the boundary of our wildlife preserve to intercept these animals trying to get to their historic sanctuary and their only access to water. The first few years will be a massacre before the remaining herd abandons this habitat to start the journey doomed to end at a golf course. This massacre will actually be the best option at this point because the loss of this habitat will necessitate further herd reductions, which are much more difficult to accomplish after the animals are on the golf courses. With our herds gone, we will all be able to enjoy this area year round without restriction. Is this the direction we want to go? Don’t allow the same mistakes to be made up the Crystal. We can have bike trails without destroying wildlife habitat.Jim DukeCarbondale
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