Wildlife Trail Ambassador Program’s new campaign aims to change perspective on wildlife
In Eagle, wildlife and humans exist within each other’s backyards. With that coexistence comes a sense of responsibility for residents to respect and protect surrounding wildlife. Through education and jarring imagery, a new wildlife campaign aims to reinforce the community’s duty to wildlife.
Five years ago, the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance launched its Wildlife Trail Ambassador Program up valley. With the hope of reinforcing good habits on trails such as adhering to trail closures, keeping dogs leashed and packing out, the program placed volunteers and educational information at trailheads. Efforts focused especially on closed trailheads to discourage out-of-season use, Erin Hoban, Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance program coordinator and Eagle Open Space and Recreation Advisory Committee secretary said.
“The Wildlife Trail Ambassador Program has done a phenomenal job of trying to educate general trail users about how they can interact the best way possible,” Hoban said. “As we live here in the winter, we feel it’s necessary for everyone in the town to understand their impact and how we can take care of our wildlife.”
After the program extended its reach to Eagle a few years ago, coordinators like Hoban noticed changes to the approach were necessary.
“The conversation carries a lot of different caveats here due to the fact that the town of Eagle, the entire town, is built on some critical wildlife habitat,” Hoban said.
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The messages the Wildlife Trail Ambassador Program shared were still mainly applicable, however understanding how to coexist with wildlife off the trails also became necessary as interactions occur during Eagle residents’ day-to-day neighborhood routines.
“Every winter, deer and elk come down into town because of the snowpack and we really feel like their additional visibility is a great teaching moment to demonstrate their vulnerability and preciousness,” Hoban said.
So, this winter, the Wildlife Trail Ambassador Program sets to broaden its horizons in a new campaign—one meant to grab attention and shift behaviors.
When Nikki Asselin, secretary of the Hardscrabble Trails Coalition presented the campaign to Eagle town council, she explained that unlike the Wildlife Trail Ambassador Program, the responsibility doesn’t solely fall on recreators to help maintain habitats and protect wildlife.
“We want to unify different audiences around shared values,” Asselin said. “The solution isn’t going to be represented by one group over another. Truly, we have to come together as a community, and everybody needs to be aware of their impact and what they can do.”
The campaign will exist in several different mediums: mailers delivered to Eagle residents, signage for businesses and recreation areas around town as well as social media efforts.
In all these spheres, visuals designed by local company 970 Design depict wildlife in unexpected situations. These images are not only meant to be attention-grabbing, but also opportunities for people to reflect on their place and responsibility with respect to wildlife and their habitats.
The visuals will be accompanied by catchy educational taglines, with “nuggets” of further educational information, Asselin said.
Feb. 21, the town of Eagle, the Eagle Valley Land Trust, the Vail Valley Mountain Trail Alliance, Eagle Outside, the Hardscrabble Trails Coalition and the Eagle Ranch Wildlife committee will help launch the campaign during the 6 p.m. “Have you Herd?” educational event at Brush Creek Pavilion.
The “Have you Herd?” event will include a panel of wildlife experts discussing challenges to local wildlife and how the community can come together to make a difference. Alongside educating, the event aims to spark action and will provide volunteer opportunities to attending community members.
With funding from the Eagle Ranch Wildlife Committee and the town of Eagle, the wildlife education campaign’s launch is Eagle-focused. However, in coming projects, the campaign’s reach will likely extend further, Asselin said—valley-wide and potentially beyond.
“We would really like this to be a two-to-three-year campaign so that we can really maximize our impact over the course of that time,” Asselin said.