Experts: Ginn wildlife plan lacking
Vail CO, Colorado
MINTURN ” Allen Dunaj watches elk south of Minturn some mornings and evenings, but recently he found something that upset him.
Dunaj found a PVC pipe indicating the location of the 13th tee in a meadow laced with beaver ponds where the Ginn Development Co. wants to build a golf course, he said.
“I feel if they build one they might ruin it,” said Dunaj, a Vail resident of 15 years.
Dunaj is not the only one. Experts agree that the development will negatively impact wildlife, such as Canada lynx, elk and peregrine falcons. The plans submitted to Minturn requesting approval for a private ski resort, golf course and housing development provide inadequate explanations on how Ginn plans to lessen impacts on wildlife, some say.
Ginn has neglected to respond to concerns of the Colorado Division of Wildlife, said Bill Andree, district wildlife manager for the agency. The agency has provided recommendations on wildlife to help Minturn leaders decide whether to approve the project.
“We think they could do more,” he said.
The development would cause “an extensive loss of elk winter habitat,” Andree wrote in a December letter to the Minturn Planning and Zoning Commission. Ski lifts, gondolas, access roads and increased traffic on U.S. Highway 24 ” all scantly covered in Ginn’s environmental plan ” would diminish the elk population, Andree wrote.
The development “poses a serious risk” to peregrine falcons because they might leave their nests south of Minturn temporarily or permanently, Andree wrote.
The mostly sprawling development would block wildlife from crossing through the property, said Ryan Bidwell, executive director of Colorado Wild, a Durango-based environmental group.
Ginn should preserve some of the more important habitat areas, Bidwell said. The upper Willow Creek drainage is important lynx habitat where Ginn wants to build a ski resort, Bidwell said.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Ginn to minimize the development’s impact on the way the development would affect migrations of animals, said Al Pfister, supervisor at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“Will it have an impact? Yes,” Pfister said. “But the extent of that impact we need to discuss some more.”
If Minturn approves the development, Ginn would follow the same environmental standards required of similar developments in the region, said Bennett Raley, attorney for Ginn.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife approves Ginn’s assessment of how it would deal with black bears, common in the area, according to Andree’s letter.
The company would keep construction a half mile away from the peregrine falcon nest site and only build in the fall, when the birds have left, he said.
The Endangered Species Act requires stringent protection for lynx habitat, and the company would abide, Raley said. Federal agencies would determine whether Ginn meets those standards.
In addition to the golf course, the cleanup of the hazardous waste site would provide some habitat for elk, Raley said. The clustering of the Bolts Lake condominiums also would help reduce habitat loss, he said.
The development would decrease available elk habitat by a fraction of one percent, so Ginn would contribute to a fund for elk in other locations in the Vail Valley, he said.
“We recognize that’s an important impact,” he said.
However, even though Raley responded to some concerns about elk and peregrine falcons Feb. 28 at a Minturn town meeting that Andree attended, those responses failed to satisfy him, Andree said.
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Are we seeing more bears because there are more bears on the valley floor, or because we’re all spending more time at home? It could be a bit of both.