Gates installed to help enforce Buffalo Pass seasonal closure |

Gates installed to help enforce Buffalo Pass seasonal closure

Routt County Riders volunteers are all smiles after completing the installation of a wildlife seasonal closure gate on Buffalo Pass. (Courtesy photo)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In an effort to help enforce the Buffalo Pass seasonal closure, which is aimed at helping preserve Routt County’s elk population, three county nonprofits have worked together to install new gates in the area.

Yampa Valley Community Foundation, Routt County Riders and Keep Routt Wild have erected six gates on both sides of the Great White Buffalo Trail, both sides of the BTR Trail, at the intersection of Spring Creek and Flash of Gold trails and at the intersection of BTR Connector and Flash of Gold trails.

“Human activity in close proximity to elk birthing their young and caring for young at this early stage of life can impact their overall survival,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife Area Manager Kris Middledorf said. “Elk need places for refuge, free of human activity during this time period.”

The purpose of the gates, Middledorf said, is to prevent humans from disrupting a calf’s life developmental period and shortening its life span.

While the gates are in place to protect elk, members of the project said finding a balance between wildlife preservation and providing a place for outdoor recreators to enjoy their hobbies is another important goal.

“We want to be on board with educating the public on wildlife closures and making it very obvious that we want to do the right things for our wildlife populations,” Routt County Riders Executive Director Laraine Martin said.

Middledorf agreed and added that despite traditional contention between outdoor recreation and wildlife preservation worldwide, Routt County has made significant efforts to ensure both goals are met.

“Many of us live here in the Yampa Valley because of the diversity of our natural places and wildlife,” he said. “The challenge we face is how to balance the conservation of these natural resources with our own use of the land.”

While the two can often coincide, Middledorf said sacrifices are sometimes necessary for hikers and mountain bikers to help preserve wildlife species.

“We need to find a balance where wildlife and our natural resources can thrive, while at the same time providing opportunities for people to enjoy the outdoors,” he said. “Conservation is the wise use of our natural resources, and it’s our community’s joint responsibility to participate in conservation. ”

The gates are meant to assist with the late spring closure from May 15 to June 15, but project leaders said voluntary compliance will still be necessary from those recreating in the area.

“People don’t realize they are making an impact because they don’t see the impact,” said Larry Desjardin, Keep Routt Wild board president. “Once we teach people that 5% of disturbances lead to mortality of that calf, then people get it.”

Helen Beall, community impact manager at the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, said it was important for those spending time in the Buffalo Pass area to be extra cognizant of wildlife.

“It’s important to the community to understand that we need a balance between recreation and our wildlife,” she said. “We share this land with our wildlife, and we need to make sure they’re supported.”

The project was funded in part by the WHILD fund with the remaining balance provided by Keep Routt Wild and Routt County Riders.

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