As we greet the New Year and a new decade, let’s not forget that the proposal for a damaging, paved, year-round access road across more than 4 miles of our public lands and critical deer and elk winter range is still under review at the Forest Service — requiring the agency to amend its 2002 Forest Plan if approved.
While the Berlaimont proponent claims that “eventually, deer and elk will figure out where they are safe,” and that the project “will create a good, safe environment for wildlife,” the reality is that increased human development and habitat disturbance in our valley is having a jarringly detrimental impact on local wildlife populations.
And, despite the hopeful prediction by Mr. Carnes in his Dec. 30 column that the Berlaimont Estates access road proposal will go nowhere, there’s still a strong possibility that the Forest Service will approve it.
I’ve heard that the Forest Service could issue its decision on Berlaimont’s proposed road before spring, making it all the more important for the community to continue making its voice heard. Community opposition to this project has not gone away — it’s only resolved and intensified. I still have hope that we can influence the decision — hope that has been regularly bolstered over the past year by the outpouring of advocacy I’ve both witnessed and been a part of. From the rally of more than 200 opponents last March, the seven-week community-led ad campaign over the summer, to the hundreds of comments of opposition submitted to the Forest Service and the dozens and dozens of letters to the editor, we’ve made it clear that this proposal is unacceptable.
And let’s not forget early last year, the Vail Daily reported that more than 2,000 petition signatures opposing Berlaimont had been delivered to the Forest Service. Now, having collected hundreds of more signatures at local fairs this past summer, we’re just 86 signatures away from reaching 4,000! If you have not yet signed the petition, or voiced your concerns to the Forest Service Supervisor with an email, I urge you to do so today at https://wildernessworkshop.org/buck-berlaimont/. More details about the Berlaimont road proposal can also be found there. And if you have a “Our local wildlife is Priceless” or “Buck Berlaimont” t-shirt, put it on and encourage others to sign the petition, too!
Let’s remind the Forest Service that we’re resoundingly opposed to this road that would fragment and degrade critical wildlife habitat and diminish public access to our public lands. Let’s start this new decade by pushing our public land managers to protect the resources that make our area so wonderful, and do a better job of preserving habitat that local wildlife rely upon. Let’s work together to turn around the decades of herd declines by making more thoughtful decisions, including respecting seasonal closures when we recreate and recognizing our individual impacts on wildlife. We cannot keep making the same decisions and expecting a different result. The 20/20 vision for this year — put conservation and wildlife first in 2020! Say no to the Berlaimont access road!
Tim R. Wolf