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.