Clinton Ball: Let wildlife professionals manage Steamboat trails in regard to elk habitat
October 22, 2018
In response to an opinion letter in the Steamboat Pilot & Today concerning recreation trails and their effect on elk populations, I thought it will be useful to add my own anecdotal and non-scientific observations of elk as well.
I lived in Evergreen for a number of years. Evergreen’s a bedroom community in the foothills 30 minutes from Denver. There are a number of open space parks and many multi-use trails throughout the area. There’s probably no spot in Evergreen that’s more than a half mile from a road, driveway, building or trail.
There are a ton of elk in and around Evergreen. They wander the streets, bed down in manicured suburban yards and do whatever it is that elk usually do. Advertisements for local realtors have pictured a big bull elk ambling across the street causing traffic stoppage with the caption, "Traffic Jam…Evergreen Style!"
My mother loved living with the Evergreen elk, but she was constantly shooing them away from her flower garden. Her dog barked and snarled. Eventually, an elk kicked him and dislocated his hip. Seemed the elk always shrugged it off and came back later. Many, many times, I hiked and sped my bike through Elk Meadow Park and was exhilarated by the large quantity of elk and deer there.
I’m not a wildlife biologist nor have I ever read a study regarding elk habitat in the foothills of the Front Range. It seems to me that the community of Evergreen was founded on good elk habitat and, for sure, progress marched ever forward. Houses were built in the woods. Roads were inevitably paved; shopping centers erected. Parks were built. Cars trucks motorcycles and bikes crowded the roads and trails, yet the elk persisted and possibly thrived.
There are governmental agencies charged with studying, protecting and managing wildlife populations in Colorado. They work pretty hard at it every day. They live this stuff and know a lot more than I, or other random citizens, might. They conceive multi-year plans, manage habitat and herd numbers and mind the consequences of today’s decisions on future generations.
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Heartfelt cries that Steamboat trails are decimating elk herds are only opinion and deeply divisive. What did the NEPA studies reveal about these projects? Was the expensive and time-consuming study and approval process just a lot of bureaucratic flim-flam? Or, has the process been good stewardship of our shared resources?