Langmaid: Berlaimont would damage community
With its decision to approve a year-round access road to the proposed luxury Berlaimont Estates above Edwards, the U.S. Forest Service is quickly losing credibility throughout the Eagle County community. For decades, local citizens have provided long hours of public input and partnership with the local Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District. Now those long-term partnerships, and hard-won relationships, could be whisked away with the stroke a pen in the hand of our Forest Supervisor, Scott Fitzwilliams.
The Forest Service is incorrectly justifying its rationale to allow a new road through our local public lands based on the antiquated 1980 Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act. The logic is flawed. In its analysis over the past several years, the Forest Service conducted a search of similar proposals and found one example near Steamboat Springs that it felt was akin to Berlaimont. The problem is, that example is not at all like the current ill-conceived Berlaimont proposal which calls for a year-round paved access road into some of the last remaining critical winter range for deer and elk in the Eagle Valley.
Hundreds of local residents are outraged that our own Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District cannot seem to see the forest for the trees. The Forest Service is jeopardizing the future of our community’s deer and elk populations, and our natural resource-based economy.
The Forest Service continues to ingore requests from hundreds of citizens to deny the proposed exclusive access road. Forest Service staff have also turned a blind eye to years of scientific data from Colorado Parks and Wildlife showing a 65% decline in deer and elk populations in Eagle County.
The agency has failed to acknowledge the importance of the habitat that would be destroyed if the Berlaimont access road is approved. In addition, the Management would need to be altered to eliminate current protections for wildlife. Community members spent hundreds of hours supporting the Forest Service providing public input during the creation of the plan and now all of that time and goodwill would be abolished with one decision.
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If you look at http://www.berlaimontestates.com, you’ll see the most egregious example of greenwashing I have ever seen. The owner-developers, whose address is Naples, Florida, claim their proposed luxury gated community would be “sustainable” and “wildlife-friendly.” This is a severe attempt to fabricate truth and an insidious insult to our community.
The owners of the inholding should cut their losses. They took a huge risk purchasing property surrounded by public land and envisioning a mountainside utopia. Why should our local community and wildlife suffer the consequences?
The best solution would be for the Forest Service to select the “no action” alternative, and for the owners to sell the land to the Eagle County Open Space program or a land trust for a conservation easement to protect the deer and elk habitat in perpetuity. Please join me in encouraging our Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams, and our Board of Eagle County Commissioners, to protect this land above Edwards for wildlife — forever.
Kim Langmaid is the founder of Walking Mountains Science Center, Associate Professor of Sustainability Studies at Colorado Mountain College, and Mayor Pro Tem on the Vail Town Council.