Planning for protection from recreation

This blog has discussed the effects of recreational activities on wildlife (here’s one), and whether federal land managers should be doing something different (than basically reacting to overuse).  It might be worth looking at how planning for use of newly acquired land is being done by local governments and land trusts that are interested in wildlife, and there happen to be a couple of current examples from Colorado.

Fishers Peak is a new state park near Trinidad, Colorado.  It was formerly a private ranch with very little recreational use and no trails or other developments.

“This is a property that has not been loved to death,” Dreiling says. “It’s been pretty well protected, and it’s important to us that we put recreation on this property in a wise way, in a thoughtful way. It’s an important ball that we’re not going to drop, that balance of conservation and recreation.”

In practice, that means a trail won’t be built just because it accesses the prettiest views; instead, the project partners are, for example, assessing where wildlife corridors are located and what sorts of impacts motorized vehicles could have so the public can enjoy the land inside Colorado’s second-largest state park without worrying too much about the environmental consequences. The park’s full playbook is still being drawn up, so not all of these questions have been answered, but efforts to bridge the sometimes conflicting ambitions of recreation and preservation could set a new standard for future projects—here and across the country.

Pitkin County has purchased land and granted a conservation easement to the Aspen Valley Land Trust to protect wildlife habitat.

The easement language includes a nod to a 2016 policy adopted by the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Board, which states that the county shall “rely on the best available science for property-specific study of natural habitat conditions, including the role of the property in the context of larger habitat and wildlife patterns in the Roaring Fork watershed.” That policy also states that “human uses, if any, will be planned and managed to minimize intrusion into breeding/nesting areas and migration corridors … (and) minimize intrusion into the time periods and/or places of special habitat concern.”

Allowances for human use on the property are not guaranteed and would be made only after detailed studies are completed on site-specific conditions, identifying wildlife and habitat needs.

“You answer those questions first and then say what niches are left where you can integrate humans,” Will said in an interview. That could take the form of enacting seasonal closures or making specific areas of the property off-limits year-round. The management plan could take years to come together.

Of course federal lands are already developed to facilitate recreation.  This doesn’t mean they couldn’t be redeveloped (or undeveloped) where effects on wildlife have been identified.

9 thoughts on “Planning for protection from recreation”

  1. Recreation is also a major issue for WUI wildfire mitigation in the Corvalllis, OR, area. Evacuation routes are likely to see an increase in vehicles due to recreationists. Also, we have houseless people camping illegally overnight at trailheads and other wooded areas increasing risk for fire ignition and further increasing vehicle numbers in the event of wildfire evacuation.

  2. It’s a lot easier to prohibit public recreation in areas where it’s never been allowed to begin with, than to kick the public out of places they have enjoyed for generations. I’d rather governments purchase private lands and use those for wildlife refuges than close existing recreation areas on public lands. Though this does show the fundamentally anti-humanist mindset that has taken hold of public lands planners lately. Humans are bad, only the animals matter, yada yada. That line is getting pretty tiring.

  3. Big Sur has become increasingly-impacted by tourist abuse. It’s clear that there isn’t enough facilities and services, partly due to the remote nature of that part of the coast. People camp and crap right next to the highway. Parking is problematic at recreational spots. Crowded roads make for slow traffic. There is minimal camping and they are always full. There is a combination of State, Federal and private lands, close to California Highway 1. The terrain is too extreme for much development. There are some working farms and dairies that take up the rest of the land.


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