Letter: We can all be part of the solution for sustaining wildlife
I was one of the three wildlife biologists hired by the town of Vail to assess the wildlife impacts resulting from the Booth Heights housing project. It was very gratifying to me to see how much the residents care about their wildlife.
I have a long association with this area. I believe it was 1976, as a wildlife conservation officer assigned to the South Rifle district, when I was part of the crew who were given an assignment to assess the wildlife populations in the undeveloped Beaver Creek valley. This was the year prior to the start of the development. It still amazes me to see how much things have changed in the past 43 years.
The Vail Valley is an ecosystem connecting thousands of acres of high quality, public land summer ranges with the winter ranges of mostly private lands in the valley bottom. The public lands have been impacted by outdoor recreation (hiking, mountain bikes, skiing and ATVs) and the winter ranges for big game ungulates has been severely impacted by land development directly removing habitat and disrupting migration routes. Winter range is almost always the most limiting factor to having healthy and sustainable ungulate populations.
Everyone who lives, visits, works or plays in the valley is part of this problem and could also be part of the solution to preserve the remnant wildlife populations and hopefully make them sustainable for the future. The Booth Heights development was certainly an issue for the bighorn sheep that depend on the Booth Creek winter range. The larger problem is the mostly unmitigated, cumulative impacts that have resulted in the massive development from the foot of Vail Pass to Squaw Creek, an almost continuous development that stretches over 17 miles.
It will take money to preserve and enhance what habitat is left in this beautiful valley. It appears to me that one of the best and fairest ways to finance this effort would be to form a special district under Colorado state law (C.R.S. Title 32). For a small mill levy on private property, adequate funds could be generated to purchase land/conservation easements, conduct needed wildlife studies and enhance habitats.
I hope that the Vail Valley residents will continue to be passionate about their wildlife.