Speak out against Carbondale-to-Crested Butte trail | AspenTimes.com

Speak out against Carbondale-to-Crested Butte trail

The deadline to comment on the White River Forest Service draft environmental assessment of a segment of the Pitkin County-proposed Carbondale-to-Crested Butte trail is fast approaching.

This segment stretches from Redstone to McClure Pass. The alignment proposed by Pitkin County travels through the sensitive wildlife areas of Bear Gulch and McClure Pass. Veteran wildlife managers have referred to these areas as “high quality habitat” with minimal disturbance to date, currently providing elk winter range and likely elk production areas.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations direct federal agencies to evaluate the direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of a proposed project in determining its likely environmental effects. Clearly a trail into elk habitat will have both direct and cumulative impacts to local elk populations.

The Colorado chapter of the Sierra Club opposes the development of any new trails into intact landscapes because these trails contribute to the fragmentation and loss of native habitats and consequent loss of native species. This is a position encouraged and supported by decades of reliable, peer-reviewed science that supports maintaining these areas trail free to protect what remains of our native wildlife. A 31-year veteran scientist employed by the Division of Wildlife (now CPW) made the following statement in a letter to Pitkin County: “Trails placed in high quality and non-disturbed habitats will change species diversity, density and abundance. It results in habitat fragmentation which negatively impacts many species.” He goes on to recommend a trail alignment that avoids sensitive areas and stays along the highway right of way, calling it a “win, win” for recreationists and wildlife.

The Sierra Club considers NEPA an important tool to stand strong against harmful projects. Take advantage of the comment period to let the Forest Service know your concerns with Pitkin County’s plan to encroach upon valuable wildlife habitat. fs.usda.gov/project/?project=56913

The Roaring Fork Group of the Sierra Club