Letter: Let’s protect our wild neighbors, not destroy them | VailDaily.com

Letter: Let’s protect our wild neighbors, not destroy them

I am writing to commend Eagle County’s work on finding ways to locate, fund and build projects that will protect wildlife in our state by re-connecting habitat. I-70 is a “zipper” across the state, severing the northern part of the state from the south, and creating a treacherous barrier for so many species that migrate south to north and back again each year. As more and more people move to Colorado drawn by magnificent landscapes, our roads and homes, our lights and noise all impact wildlife, forcing them to find ways around our development. The landscapes that wildlife have traversed for generations become fragmented and dangerous to them. It is our responsibility to understand the habitat needs of wildlife and create safe passage for animals in an increasingly human-dominated landscape.

As a filmmaker working on conservation issues, I have documented the impacts of highway overpasses and underpasses in Banff National Park, along Highway 93 in Montana and in Colorado. These act as corridors to provide safe passage for wildlife, and greatly reduce tragic collisions between people and animals on these roads. As a Board Member of Western Resource Advocates, I am helping to advance projects that permanently protect and connect half of our western lands to support wildlife, outdoor economies and opportunities to enjoy the West’s beauty. Wildlife bridges and underpasses provide critical connectivity. They require leadership, significant funding and broad partnerships to be successful and Eagle County is off to a great start. Earlier this year, Eagle County Safe Passages for Wildlife shared some fo the results of an effort by local governments, conservation groups and others working to create a common vision that identifies and prioritizes important wildlife movement areas and highway crossing zones in Eagle County. This is important work and should garner the support of so many who cherish the healthy wildlife and wild lands of Colorado.

By contrast, the Berlaimont Estates project is a disaster for wildlife habitat. Part of this proposed development would include a new paved road, nearly 30 feet in width across 4.2 miles of national forest in the heart of some of Eagle County’s best remaining wildlife habitat. The road would access a 680-acre, private inholding zigzagging through prime deer and elk winter range, in order to serve a new luxury subdivision of homes that will be rarely occupied high above the community of Edwards. If the paved road is approved, deer and elk will suffer fatalities, the habitat will be fragmented and development will threaten rare plant species and adversely impact water resources in the Eagle River Valley. Increased traffic would also harm the popular hiking and biking experience on the Berry Creek Road. The contrast between these two projects is obvious. We need to think about growth with respect for the other species with whom we share this planet. Support Safe Passages for Wildlife, not more roads carving up critical habitat in an already fragmented landscape.

Chelsea Congdon Brundige

Snowmass