Sustainable Vail: Spring is coming, and so are seasonal wildlife closures
The sun is getting higher in the sky, temperatures are warming, and days are getting longer. Spring is coming. We will soon transition from skis and snowshoes to hiking boots and mountain bikes.
We are not the only ones in the valley on the move. Wildlife are migrating from lower elevations to the melting-out upper elevations of our valley. They are following the snow line as it gives way for food to consume and gain back their strength after a long winter. In certain areas, deer and elk are moving into safe areas to give birth and nurse their calves. Spring is a critical time of the year for wildlife and we need to give them their space to ensure their survival.
As you head back out on the trails this spring, please remember and follow these principles to reduce your impact on wildlife during this critical time:
Seasonal wildlife closures
From April 15 through June 20 or June 30, closures go into effect on many trails in the Vail area. These closures are to protect wildlife while they are migrating and giving birth to their calves in critical habitat. Trail closures include the North Trail, Son of Middle Creek, Two Elk, and Everkrisp. For a full list of seasonal trail closures visit vvmta.org/seasonalclosures.
Where you can recreate
Trails in the Vail area that are open (if they aren’t muddy!) include Game Creek, Cougar Ridge, Meadow Mountain, Vail Mountain, West Avon Preserve, Berry Creek, and Grouse Creek. Please check trail conditions on VVMTA.org or join the VVMTA Trail Conditions group on Facebook for the most up to date information.
Dogs on leash
We all love to get out on the trails with our furry friends. If you do, one of the easiest ways to mitigate your impact on wildlife is to keep your dog on leash. You might not be able to see the wildlife, but they are there and dogs are seen as predators causing wildlife to flee and burn precious calories. Plus, did you know that if your dog chases wildlife, it is considered wildlife harassment and you could receive a hefty fine?
Consider alternate options
During this critical time of the year for wildlife you may even consider other options to get outside. As an alternative to dirt trails, there are miles of paved recreation path that run from Vail Pass and throughout our valley. The paved Gore Valley Recreation Path through Vail is a great way to get some sun, exercise, and outside time in the spring while our trails dry out and wildlife are on the move.
Join a passionate group of local volunteers and become a Wildlife Trail Ambassador. These ambassadors volunteer their time by stationing at seasonally closed trailheads to educate trail users on why they are closed and where they can recreate. For more information on how to become an ambassador, visit our website VVMTA.org.
The VVMTA’s mission is to maintain, educate, advocate for, and build sustainable non-motorized soft surface trails while conserving the natural environment of Eagle County and our public lands. We are the leading trail advocates in Eagle County. We promote stewardship of our public lands, sustainable trail building practices and a balance between recreation and conservation. The VVMTA maintains that trails contribute to the quality of life, improved health, and economic vitality of the community.
Vail is the first destination in the world to be certified to the Mountain IDEAL sustainable destination standard in 2019. In addition, Vail’s certification to the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s destination standard represents a first for the United States. Together, these ongoing sustainability efforts will help protect and preserve the destination for generations to come.
Ernest Saeger is executive director of Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance. The Discover Vail monthly sustainability column is a project of the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council.