Wolf: Berlaimont will be a knockout blow to wildlife | VailDaily.com

Wolf: Berlaimont will be a knockout blow to wildlife

Tim Wolf
Valley Voices
Tim Wolf, left, and Berlaimont opponents, clad in the topical T-shirt designed by Wolf, present an oversize letter to White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams during a special meeting in May 2019. The letter was signed by more than 200 local residents who are also opposed the the proposal, located north of Edwards in an area that has been designated as critical wildlife habitat.
Daily file photo

We must protect the critical habitat we have left in this valley. Approving a damaging new road to the speculative Berlaimont Estates development through critical winter range is the last thing this community needs at the worst time.

I’ve lived and worked here for over 20 years. Over the past decade, I’ve seen deer and elk populations dwindle so drastically that I stopped hunting here altogether. Their decline is tied to many factors, but notably to our development and increased use of their best habitat.

Enough is enough — do our local wildlife not have any value against big money? Mitigating lip service of wildlife habitat has a proven history of being a failure.

If we want to protect our resources and wildlife, a big part of what lured us all here in the first place, we cannot continue to pave and bulldoze the habitat these animals need. We must begin making decisions that protect and rejuvenate remaining habitat.

This week I drove over Cottonwood Pass twice. I saw 22 does and fawns, a group of six bucks, and only two cars. The bucks were close to the road. I was able to look them in the eye. They didn’t spook.

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The next day, Glenwood Canyon was closed and I was in a train of 30-plus cars. I saw four does. They ultimately spooked, presumably uncomfortable with the traffic. This is exactly what would happen at Berlaimont with hundreds of owner and service vehicle trips per day — deer and elk will look for quieter habitat.

But quieter habitat is hard to find. Wildlife must share the land with exploding recreational use and development. Habitat is extremely limited during the winters, when snow is deep. Wildlife numbers are down as a result, and we still continue to destroy quality winter range.

Indeed, the U.S. Forest Service acknowledges there will be significant wildlife loss with approval of Berlaimont’s paved road. We are ignoring lessons from development south of Interstate 70, where the most recent wildlife counts are the lowest they’ve ever been.

Instead, based on contorted logic and again not advocating for the wildlife, the Forest Service intends to greenlight this ridiculous proposal — calling it reasonable access.

Paving sensitive wildlife habitat to facilitate development of a speculative, unwanted new subdivision is not reasonable. Denying the damaging new road and stepping up protections for declining wildlife populations would be the prudent thing to do. This is an ethical question at this point, and the answer should be easy: Deny Berlaimont’s unreasonable request.

Eagle County residents undeniably have said no to this road and this development. Climate change underscores how unreasonable this proposal is. The West is on fire every year. Paving Berlaimont’s road will put multi-million dollar houses in fire’s path. It will create a need to protect those structures, putting people at risk. It will also increase the likelihood of fire in the area, since most fires are caused by people and Berlaimont will increase use.

That’s a risk to local communities, to first responders, to public coffers, and to public lands and wildlife. The risk isn’t balanced by any public benefit.

Previous projects have shown that paving sensitive habitat is a death sentence to our local wildlife over time. These animals are already on the ropes due to past decisions. Berliamont will be a knockout blow.

Please continue to voice your opinion with our county commissioners, elected officials, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials and Forest Service officials.

John F. Kennedy famously said: “One person can make the difference and everyone should try.”

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