Vail Daily column: Closures protect sensitive wildlife habitat
Spring is here! This is a busy time of preparation for people and wildlife alike as we all get ready for summer. At Eagle Valley Land Trust, we are getting ready to meet with landowners of conservation easements for our annual visits. Landowners give or sell a conservation easement in order to ensure future protection while maintaining their property under private ownership. Many of the conserved properties in Eagle County include wildlife habitat. Wildlife closures protect sensitive wildlife habitat during important times of the year.
Thank you to the town of Avon for installing closure signs on West Avon Preserve, and thank you to the public for honoring these closures. It can take quite a bit of self-control to stay off of a trail that looks dry and ready to go in the spring, and the wildlife really appreciate your efforts. While it is extremely important to stay off of wet trails to prevent damage, it is also very important to honor wildlife closures, even if the trails look dry. If your favorite local trail is still closed, now is a great time to head west to Eagle, Fruita or Grand Junction to enjoy the warm early-season weather.
Protecting Wildlife Habitat
Did you know that the effort required to flee if startled by a human or domestic dog can make the difference of a deer or elk surviving the winter? During the winter, wildlife closures are meant to protect areas where local wildlife hunker down to wait out the brutal Colorado winter. For many local species, such as deer and elk, the key to surviving the winter is decreasing activity and retaining warmth. Deer, elk and other animals bed down in their sheltered winter habitat, and once they are bedded down, the snow insulates their compact bodies like a blanket. If they feel threatened or surprised and feel the need to flee, they not only expend a large amount of initial energy to run, they use additional energy to bed down and warm up a new spot. In the spring, wildlife closures also protect calving areas. If helpless calves are disturbed from their hiding places, their chances of survival to adulthood decrease significantly. Elk and deer may become aggressive during calving to protect their territory and their young. Wildlife closures are important for protecting people from wildlife encounters. If you do come upon wildlife while you are enjoying local trails, please be sure to give them space and respect.
People travel from far and wide to enjoy this beautiful place. Those of us who call Eagle County home are lucky to enjoy the benefits year round. Many people choose to live here because of the beautiful landscapes and majestic wildlife that already call the mountains their home. For some people, observing wildlife is a special and spiritual experience, while others are happy to know animals exist out in the wilderness. Local wildlife have an important role to play in natural areas, keeping the plants and the mountains healthy. We are lucky to share our home with beautiful creatures, and with that comes the responsibility of giving them space.
Conserving Land Forever
As more people move to Eagle County and other rural areas, development will further fragment wildlife habitat. Eagle Valley Land Trust is working hard to preserve vital wildlife habitat and protect the lifestyle values of our mountain community. Conservation easements are a terrific tool to help landowners protect conservation values on their land. Eagle Valley Land Trust works with landowners to balance the needs of humans and wildlife on protected land.
Eagle Valley Land Trust was founded in 1981 as a nonprofit environmental conservation organization and is state certified and nationally accredited. The Land Trust currently holds 29 parcels and more than 7,500 acres of protected lands under conservation easements in Eagle County. These properties stretch from East Vail to the entrance of Glenwood Canyon and from Tennessee Pass near Leadville to Yarmony Mountain near the Routt County border.
For more information about Eagle Valley Land Trust or to make a donation, please visit http://www.evlt.org.
Jessica Foulis is the stewardship manager at Eagle Valley Land Trust.