Letter: Forest Service should lead by example
I am writing with regard to the article published on June 19, “Muddy conditions persist on some Vail trails with wildlife closures set to lift.” The article points out that the U.S. Forest Service has had to extend seasonal closures into July for many of the trails in our valley due to the unusually high amounts of snow, moisture and mud that still exists in these places. It also highlights the Forest Service’s call to the public to be good stewards for the land, wildlife and habitat by respecting the extended seasonal closures and to “recreate responsibly.”
Recreation and mechanized travel on trails that are muddy or still snow-packed can cause severe damage not only to the trail but to the surrounding landscape and wildlife habitat. Further, the heavy snowpack at the top of the mountains will continue to drive the wildlife to lower elevations in search of food and shelter. Recreation of all types in these areas will discourage the animals from using the space at a time when they still need it the most for their survival.
I applaud the Forest Service for extending the seasonal closures in these important habitats and for asking the public to help out the wildlife by respecting said closures. I’d also like to challenge the Forest Service to lead by example as good stewards of their own seasonal closures in places like Berry Creek, where the paved Berlaimont Estates access road is proposed to cut straight across public land and critical wildlife habitat, for which the Forest Service is considering allowing year-round vehicle access. To allow year-round access, the Forest Service would have to abandon its own Forest Management plan for the area, where seasonal closures are currently in place.
By the Forest Service’s own admission in their Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Berlaimont, seasonal closures are key to protecting winter range for wildlife, and removing the seasonal closure in the Berry Creek area will most certainly have a negative impact on declining deer and elk populations in our valley. I urge the Forest Service to hold true to its mission and continue to manage the area for the protection of wildlife and habitat, not to further diminish the wildlife by accommodating the whims of one developer at the expense of many.