Do we truly value wildlife? Then it’s time to acknowledge that it’s up to everyone to help (editorial)

Vail Daily Editorial Board
Our View

One of this young year’s developing stories is the decline in area wildlife populations and what we can do about it.

At the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission meeting on Monday, Feb. 26, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer Bill Andree told board members about that decline. There were plenty of sobering facts and figures — including a roughly two-thirds decline in the elk herd between Vail Pass and Wolcott south of Interstate 70 in the past 15 years. But there were also ideas about ways to help those herds rebuild.

One idea that commission members seemed to embrace is habitat enhancement in the region. Given the chronically cash-strapped condition of Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service, habitat restoration — from seeding to fertilizing to prescribed burning — is a project local governments could boost with relatively modest infusions of cash.

Local governments can also help by buying locking gates and unambiguous signs for trails that need to be closed for calving season and other reasons.

But there’s only so much governments can do. Ultimately, preserving and rebuilding wildlife herds is up to us.

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“We all feel we don’t have an impact, that it’s the other guy,” Andree told commission members.

He’s right, you know. We’re all the problem.

From people who leave dog poop on trails “just this once” to people who violate trail closures — “oh, the elk will never notice me” — individuals can and do impact wildlife. When a few hundred — or even several dozen — individuals take the same attitude, the results can be devastating to local wildlife.

Whether or not you see an elk or deer, that animal has probably seen you, and at a fairly great distance. An elk can spot a hiker as far away as 550 yards. An animal can spot a person on an all-terrain vehicle nearly a mile away. An animal easing away from a human isn’t doing the work needed to stay alive or raise a viable calf. That contributes to the decline of our herds.

Better education — from locking gates to crystal-clear closure signs to, perhaps, having volunteers at trailheads explaining closures — can all help. Ultimately, though, responsibility falls on us.

Do we truly value wildlife? Then it’s time to acknowledge that it’s up to everyone to help.

The late Walt Kelly was the author and artist behind “Pogo,” a long-running comic strip. To commemorate the first Earth Day in 1971, Kelly had two of his characters walking across a trash-strewn trail. One character, Pogo, then uttered the immortal line, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Let’s not be “us,” OK?

The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Krista Driscoll and Business Editor Scott Miller.

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