Letter: Who will speak for the sheep?
Vail has a unique gem in the East Vail bighorn sheep herd. These are majestic animals — no wonder they are the Colorado state animal. But they are in serious jeopardy. Their numbers have declined to less than half of what they were in the 1990s. Now a massive housing development is being proposed that will displace the sheep from major parts of their winter foraging range.
On Feb. 5, the Vail Town Council heard from a biologist hired by the developer. The public was not allowed to speak or ask questions and the biologist ducked answering whether the proposed project will harm the herd.
It’s hard to see how there could be any other conclusion. The project will not only displace the sheep from the project site but the effects of the project will extend far beyond its boundaries so that the area of displacement will be much larger than just the five acres being developed. Not to mention the ongoing disturbances of high-density people, dogs and cars.
The biologist recommended uphill remediation to improve the herd’s habitat, including a controlled burn of the vegetation. But so far there are no definite plans or cost evaluations and a controlled burn was rejected by the community in the 1990s as being too dangerous.
The biologist is not going to make his conclusions public until the developer files its Environmental Impact Statement.
Vail should be embracing the sheep, not trying to find ways to justify pushing them out of their winter habitat. So, who will speak for the sheep?
Patti and Charlie Langmaid
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