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Embrace wildlife at Burlingame

The other day, as I sat on our patio next to Deer Hill, I was joined by an adventurous ground squirrel only a few feet away from me intent on delicately nibbling daisies for his lunch. He surprised me when he dove into a dry patch of dirt, flattened himself, and rolled about kicking up dust as he enjoyed a good cleaning. I couldn’t help but laugh. I realized that it is the serenity of our home that has allowed us to encounter nature in these quirky and wonderful ways. It was then that I decided to write a response to the May 28 article suggesting that the no-dog ordinance at the Burlingame affordable housing project be revisited.First, Mayor Helen Klanderud was right. There is a comprehensive agreement that was approved by Aspen voters in May 2005 that includes a promise to keep dogs out of the Burlingame affordable housing project. I especially appreciated Helen’s statement that the no-dog ordinance was not only in response to the Bar/X cattle ranching, but also in response to serious environmental concerns about the impact of this development on wildlife.An important part of the agreement negotiated between the Bar/X Ranch, and the city is a requirement that the free-market housing sites honor setback regulations at the edge of the Roaring Fork Valley because it is a vital migratory route for large and medium-size mammals. Because the Burlingame affordable housing project is located two miles from town, nestled in the middle of 100-plus acres of wild open-space, if dogs and cats are allowed, there will be inevitable continuing conflict between domestic pets and wildlife. Invading dogs and cats will quickly eliminate ground-nesting birds such as grouse, nighthawks, snipe and towhees as well as ground-burrowing mammals like marmots, ground squirrels chipmunks and cottontails that are currently abundant. Deer also depend on the shady cover of scrub oak on Deer Hill to raise their fawns. Deprived of their food source, larger, more adaptable animals such as fox, coyote, raccoons and bear will be forced to turn to your pets, cats and dogs, to survive – provoking a bloody battle for years to come. However, there is a solution. Frequently, only the wealthy can afford to live on acreage adjoining or surrounded by pristine wild areas. Certainly some of the most sought-after and valuable home sites in Aspen are the ones over looking the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and Hallam Lake. Right now the city has a unique opportunity to make Burlingame affordable housing just as special. Instead of attempting to reverse the no-dog ordinance and impose urban life on a wild environment, embrace the wildlife: Offer the first affordable housing community that is not only a great place to live but also a responsible steward of the land. In recent years the city of Aspen has publicly stated its commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainability. This is an opportunity to “walk the talk.” Imagine: Currently, I believe houses at Burlingame are being built with the use of green construction methods, in addition to this, landscaping could be planned to accommodate wildlife movement; trails could follow natural contours; flowering plants, native bushes and trees could be used to attract hummingbirds, butterflies and migratory birds; a pond that is already planned could be designed to attract and retain wildlife year-round; and even a small stargazing observatory has been suggested.Opportunities to live with nature and value wildlife abound.By preserving wildness in and around Burlingame, I hope you, too, will be able to delight in hearing songbirds in the hushed light of morning; watch the antics of ground squirrels or marmots or a family of grouse; gasp at the sight of an eagle as it catches its prey; marvel at the call of migrating birds as they circle the pond; or appreciate the calls of coyotes in the dark and the crash of bucks in rut in the fall.


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