Letter: We are at a wildlife crossroads | VailDaily.com

Letter: We are at a wildlife crossroads

Vail Daily Letter to the Editor

The evidence was presented loud and clear at Vail’s second annual Wildlife Forum on March 6. Our wild animals in Eagle County are in distress due to human intrusion. Elk, deer and bighorn sheep populations have plummeted 50 percent or more over the last decade according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists. Development, habitat fragmentation, trails and lack of adherence to winter trail closures were all listed as root causes for the decline. They also confirmed the decline is not linked to predation.

Mitigation efforts that have been undertaken in the past have not worked and wildlife has paid the price. So, for example, when a developer commits to building on only 3.3 acres of a 23.3-acre parcel, such as the workforce housing project in East Vail, don’t be fooled. Those 3.3-acre parcels have added up over time, resulting in winter range that is insufficient to sustain a bighorn sheep herd that is less than half the size it once was. Workforce housing will benefit our community, in a different location. It shouldn’t come at the expense of the sheep. One of the questions posed at the forum was: If this development is built where proposed, will the sheep be able to survive? The response from a 38-year veteran Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologist Bill Andree was, no, they will not survive.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists are at a point where their goal is to stabilize the decline. They spoke of times past where wildlife numbers could be increased by reducing hunting licenses but that strategy is no longer an option. They have already significantly reduced licenses and the numbers continue to decline.

As citizens, we are at crossroads — do we want to lose the very wildlife many of us moved here to enjoy or are we going to take action to stop this crisis? Decision-makers need to hear from us. They are here to represent our interests and they need to know what our priorities are. Contact your representatives today to let them know you want wildlife to thrive again in Eagle County. Give wildlife a voice.

Vail Town Council members:

  • The East Vail Workforce Housing Project must be moved out of critical winter habitat for bighorn sheep and not approved as proposed.
  • The planned development at the town’s Public Works yard, which is at the west end of bighorn sheep’s winter range, must have an alternative location selected outside bighorn sheep winter range.

U.S. Forest Service District Ranger Aron Mayville (aaronmayville@fs.ed.us):

  • Do not approve the egregious access request of 4 miles of paved road on public Forest Service land through critical winter range for elk and deer in order to access to Berlaimont Estates, purchased by speculators proposing 19, 35-acre home sites above Edwards.

Eagle County commissioners:

  • Of the proposed trails on the open space Hardscrabble Ranch acquisition — any new trails should be limited to those that do not go through elk winter range or calving habitat. Specifically, do not approve trails B or D.
  • Support efforts to incorporate wildlife interests as a part of Land Use Planning. Prevention is key, if wildlife interests are considered as a part of the approval process, that can mitigate further wildlife decline. It is also in their economic interest as hunting brings millions to Eagle County and if numbers continue to decline, so will that revenue.

Be the change. Contact your representatives today.

Jacci McKenna

Eagle