Vail wildlife group begins work on habitat project |

Vail wildlife group begins work on habitat project

Work may require prescribed burns in Eagles Nest Wilderness, and that could be tricky

The Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society is providing funds for a tracking project for the East Vail bighorn sheep herd.
Rick Spitzer

VAIL — One of the first things new Vail Town Manager Scott Robson found on his to-do list was to put together a group focused on improving wildlife habitat around town. That project is coming together.

Robson on Jan. 7 told the Vail Town Council that the group has had its first meeting, with subsequent meetings scheduled about every two weeks.

Robson said the initial group included town officials, local Colorado Parks and Wildlife Officer Devin Duval, interim District Ranger Adam Bianchi and White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams.

Robson said the group came to an early consensus that effective habitat improvement won’t happen on a small scale. While the group’s initial mission was to improve habitat for the herd of bighorn sheep that winters near East Vail, it quickly became clear that tactics across a broad area are needed to improve habitat for several wildlife species.

The biggest piece of that job will be prescribed burns to clear old growth and allow new growth that wildlife can use for summer and winter grazing.

That’s going to require special dispensation from the U.S. Forest Service, since some of the targeted terrain is in the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area. Prescribed burning isn’t allowed in wilderness areas.

Councilwoman Kim Langmaid is part of the working group and noted that there’s a lot to do even outside wilderness areas. The Forest Service for a century followed a strategy of putting out all fires. That turned out to be the wrong thing to do since fire is a natural part of forest ecosystems.

“The forests up there are in really, really bad shape, Langmaid said.

Robson said the first meeting has him optimistic about possible work in the relatively near future.

“The takeaway is very positive,” Robson said. “It was a nice, eye-opening conversation… we’ll look at a holistic, landscape-level (project).”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at or 970-748-2930.

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