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Colorado Trail rerouted

Bob Berwyn

A lush, verdant valley between Copper Mountain and Vail Pass will be even more useful for lynx, deer, elk, pine marten, ptarmigan and snowshoe hares after scores of enthusiastic volunteers recently helped re-route a one-and-a-half mile section of the Colorado Trail away from the Guller Creek riparian corridor.Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC) organized the Aug. 10-11 project with support from Copper Mountain Resort and the National Forest Foundation. Most of the work involved obliterating and re-vegetating the section of trail that was moved. The idea is to help protect high quality wildlife habitat in the drainage.&quotThere are a lot of tall willows in there, and dense stands of conifers on either side of the drainage,&quot says Tom Kroening, area manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. &quotWe’re thinking this is going to be a good move for a lot of different species,&quot Kroening says.Minimizing human use in the area should make it more attractive for wildlife. A bridge beneath the eastbound lanes of I-70 gives animals a 50 percent better chance of crossing the busy interstate without getting hit, Kroening says. I-70 has been described as a &quotBerlin Wall&quot for wildlife. Animal carcasses often rot beside the west-bound lanes of highway in the vicinity of Guller Creek.The project takes on additional significance considering the intense recreational use at Vail Pass and burgeoning resort development at Copper Mountain, to either side of the drainage.The area between Vail Pass and Copper has been identified as part of a &quotforested landscape linkage corridor&quot connecting larger blocks of habitat to the north and south. The corridors are especially important in the Southern Rockies, where the landscape is naturally fragmented to begin with.Conservation biologists have recently marked such corridors as crucial targets for regional preservation efforts. With habitat fragmentation proceeding unabated in many areas, the connections between larger chunks of prime wildlife terrain could prove vital to maintaining long-term biodiversity. Without connections, animal populations are isolated and more likely to be wiped out by catastrophic events disease, for example.The corridor between Vail Pass and Copper could be important for lynx as they try to disperse from the San Juan Mountains in the southwest to other parts of the state. Although there have been no documented reports of the wild cats using the Guller Creek drainage, Kroening says habitat conditions are favorable for prey animals like snowshoe hares.The VOC will be back in the area in September, working on a severely damaged section of the unauthorized Shrine Ridge trail, where overuse has led to significant environmental degradation. More than 150 volunteers will reroute and rehabilitate the trail to make it more sustainable and able to withstand heavy use with minimal impacts to surrounding wetlands.Visit http://www.voc.org to learn more about trail projects or to sign up for future VOC efforts.


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