Letter: What’s critical in Eagle | VailDaily.com

Letter: What’s critical in Eagle

Fred Butler, Eagle

After last night’s presentation of the wildlife impact report for Eagle River Station, I now feel that I am not only qualified, but compelled to submit my own “expert’s” report on this issue. My expertise regarding wildlife is derived from having lived amongst large elk and deer populations for over 50 years ” from my teen years in the Evergreen area, in Estes Park during the late ’50s and early ’60s, and then in the Vail Valley area from ’62 to date.

Accordingly, please file the following opinion with the Eagle River Station application, and consider it to be in opposition to that submitted by Mr. Tom Boni. Although I was only privy to the wildlife report through the summary offered by Tom, I discerned that his wildlife expert concluded that the entire parcel in question was not critical habitat, and therefore any adverse impact on wildlife would be minimal. It is a given that elk and deer are migratory animals that range far and wide, from lowland to highland depending on the time of year. When U.S. Highway 6 was built, it had a minimal impact on the migratory routes of these animals; there were no eight-foot fences and traffic moved at a slower pace out of necessity (my high school bus used to drive this route for sporting events). Then came I-70 with its barrier fences ” this effectively cut off the historical migratory routes of the elk in particular. It is another given that in the late fall when the high country snows become deep, and forage is scarce, elk and deer both migrate to lower elevations, and congregate in the valleys below, the presence of elk and deer in the winter and early spring is manifest ” witness the roadkill in spite of mankind’s barriers. Every square foot of meadow, pasture and hayfield in the Eagle area is critical and supportive of wildlife, since we have heretofore confiscated much of it for our own use and enjoyment; ergo, that acreage that is still open as habitat is even more critical for the survival of wildlife in and around Eagle.

The Eagle River Station area between Highway 6 and I-70 is a portion of that habitat, and to say that it is not critical to the preservation of a portion of that wildlife is tantamount to saying that the Castle Peak herds are expendable for the greater good of a corporate developer that is competing for the same turf. It was mentioned by Tom that there were two concrete culverts under the Interstate, through which elk were known to maintain their migratory ways. If you can imagine a dark and narrow passag-way of around 200 feet in length, and then imagine that you were a malnourished and pregnant cow elk confronting such an obstacle in order to reach “greener pastures.” Nevertheless, she enters into such passage out of desperation. My point is, if wildlife will adapt and enter a dark and stark tunnel to gain access to a winter feeding area (including the Eagle River Station parcel), there must be something “critical” about that area that would cause them to endure the ordeal in the first place. Historically, it is critical that wildlife migrate out of the high country north of the interstate to preclude starvation; it is critical that wildlife access lower pastures in the Eagle area to “winter through”. By the way, I live north of the Interstate, and I consider my front yard as critical”habitat for a local deer population ” the ones that won’t go through the tunnel.

The developer, Trinity Red, knows, in its heart of hearts, that the parcel is a critical”ecosystem that partially contributes to the survival of the wildlife north of the Interstate; yet, because of the expense involved to construct a meaningful access route across the Interstate in the stead of the two culverts that now exist, Trinity Red has shopped for an “expert” that would prostitute the parcel into “non-critical” or an “unnecessary wildlife habitat.” What they really are saying is that the Eagle River Station parcel is critical to the viability of it’s corporate well-being, just as the construction of I-70 was for our national commerce and the well-being of migrating Americans.

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