Letter: Vail’s bighorn sheep are an asset
Thank you to the majority of the Vail Town Council that voted to protect our bighorn sheep herd from development by supporting condemnation of property at the north frontage road. Vail’s herd of bighorn sheep is an asset to the town, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife also deserves thanks for improving the herd’s habitat at the site.
The sheep appear happy, healthy and can be seen on the site from late October through May. The herd appears to have had at least 60 animals on the site at times, mostly ewes and young. Rams can be seen less frequently on the site and the rock outcropping south of the Vail golf course (hole No. 12) as well. Seeing these animals so closely from the East Vail bus has been known to cause multitudes of riders to move to the one side of the bus creating the feeling the bus may tip over. Children have jumped into stranger’s laps in order to press their faces to the window to get a better view of the animals. The best area to see the herd is on the east end of the nordic track where skiers, walkers and bike riders who happen to look up or have the herd pointed out to them are astonished and excited to see them so close.
Having a herd of bighorn sheep within our town’s borders is unique, and an asset to our community and guests. The herd’s presence is not a gimmick. The sheep are not a trick to get attention or an attempt to create a tradition — they are a very real part of Vail’s environment and many people find joy in seeing them. With continued pressure on habitat from development, seeing any wildlife at all, will only become more rare and precious.
Simply repeating the significant need for employees as a justification for negatively impacting our bighorn sheep ignores two important points: Vail Resorts owns a more suitable option for employee housing that is safe, walkable, convenient to all amenities with no need for a car and poses no harm to our sheep or environment and could easily integrate 165 employees, yet Vail Resorts desires to develop an isolated location requiring long trips by car or by bus to access all the town’s amenities in addition to the significant deleterious effects for our sheep and the environment. Secondly, the progress the town has made regarding increasing housing has been ignored, yet includes The Residences at Vail project currently in progress, expansion plans for Timber Ridge, a CDOT site for housing in East Vail, a permanent sales tax for funding and plans to improve downvalley transportation options.
Vail’s bighorn sheep herd is an asset and the animal’s presence should be celebrated, enhanced and shared with our community and guests. Vail Resorts has a more suitable option for housing its employees.