Wildlife can handle trail extension
Dear Editor:The headline in the Dec. 26 issue, “Next trail link will be bad news for wildlife,” is a statement of opinion which, from a journalistic standpoint, belongs on the editorial page. It is also a statement with which I disagree.Having observed wildlife along thousands of miles of streams and trails that run alongside of streams, I consider it very doubtful that the extension of the RFTA hiking/bicycling trail along the Roaring Fork River will have a net negative impact on wildlife, for several reasons.Most animals adapt very well to the presence of people, as long as those people are intermittently and quietly passing through an area, as is the case with bicyclists and hikers. Their most common method of adaptation is simple avoidance, and this is particularly easy along a trail for the many animals that are active primarily at night, when a trail is not in use. Given the relatively modest speed of nonmotorized trail users, it is also very easy for most animals to move into cover when they detect people approaching. Considering the many forms of natural hazards that animals have evolved to endure, I find it hard to believe that many would be traumatized by running a short distance to avoid a bicyclist or hiker.Other animals – such as many species of birds, including eagles – simply become accustomed to the presence of people and basically ignore them. Nuisance situations where animals become too accustomed to people are invariably associated with people feeding the animals, and that is extremely rare along trails.Another consideration is that abandoned railroad rights of way are often used for hunting – sometimes legal and sometimes not. Although I believe that regulated hunting is good for both people and wildlife, the prohibition of hunting along hiking/bicycling trails often creates a linear wildlife refuge. This may be particularly beneficial to wildlife when a deliberate effort is made to establish plants along a trail that provide food and cover.For those concerned about the welfare of wildlife, as I am, as well as opportunities for people to view wildlife, I would suggest that they work to develop the full environmental potential of trails rather than to predict negative impacts that are highly speculative and improbable as if they were facts.Carl Ted StudeCarbondale
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