Letter: A spiritual plea to save the bighorn sheep
At times, people have revealed to me that the forest, not a church, is their spiritual place. Because some do not respond to the science presented to preserve bighorn sheep habitat in East Vail, I appeal to their spiritual awareness.
Man-made climate change threatens the survival of many species. The problem is so huge that we might ask ourselves, “What can any of us do to ward off the worst?” As St. Mother Teresa counseled, “If you cannot feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” It follows that if we cannot protect the species of the entire planet, we can protect one in our backyard.
Local, and I emphasize “local,” wildlife experts Bill Andree and Bill Heicher have spoken of the imminent danger to the survival of the Booth Creek herd of bighorn sheep, and that their demise would be exacerbated by development on their last remaining range. Both of these highly respected men have given years of service to the well-being of Eagle County’s wildlife. With broad knowledge and deep commitment to their vocations, they continue to serve us years beyond their paid careers. The town of Vail’s Planning and Environmental Commission would have voted unanimously to deny development on habitat critical to maintaining a healthy herd of bighorns in Vail if the Andree and Heicher warnings were heeded.
The 4-3 PEC decision to allow development is distressing. I cannot imagine that such an outcome would have happened in other mountain resorts. “Why,” Dave Gorsuch asked at a PEC hearing, “has the proposal gotten this far?” Why, I ask, do the people of Vail have to struggle to save habitat for the bighorn sheep? How will you feel when the first shovel bites into that dirt? I will feel shame. I will also feel that our community has been deeply wounded by a corporation intent on excising a natural marvel that is a part of all of us. And for what gain? For a housing project on a geologically sensitive slope where residents might not be allowed to have dogs, or where people and pets might be contained by a fence to mitigate the known danger to the bighorns. Will it be housing or a detention center?
Vail citizens who are “united behind the science” must continue fighting to preserve that property for the bighorn sheep. With the state of Earth as it is, how can we do otherwise? If we can shield one small portion of the planet for the one indigenous herd we are blessed to have in our town, we must do it.
St. Francis of Assisi, patron of ecology, animals, and Colorado, wrote: “If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”
The science of species survival and the spirit of this town as an environmental treasure are being ignored by interests in charge. Are their interests self-interests?