Expert: Droste homes won’t significantly impact wildlife |

Expert: Droste homes won’t significantly impact wildlife

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

ASPEN, Colorado – Ten homes clustered on the Droste family property in the hills above the Brush Creek Valley will impact deer and elk, but the effect won’t be significant, an outside wildlife consultant has concluded.

Pitkin County commissioners sought the expert opinion before taking action on the proposed Brush Creek Ranch. The development proposal is back before commissioners on Wednesday.

Gene Byrne, of Wildlife Management Consultants and Associates, LLC, concluded the 1,176 acres of conserved land that surrounds the development site should ensure the deer and elk migration corridors and elk winter ranges remain viable despite the construction of 10 homes near the ridge that separates the Owl Creek and Brush Creek valleys outside of Snowmass Village.

Wrote Byrne in his report to commissioners: “The proposed Brush Creek Ranch development will diminish the deer and elk migration corridor in the Brush Creek Valley, but it will not eliminate or block this migration. Elk winter range, severe winter range and winter concentration areas will be diminished by this development, but the impact will not be significant due to the relatively small size and the conservation efforts that are already in place on the remaining Droste property and the surrounding six conserved properties.”

However, Byrne also recommends that winter activity be prohibited beyond the 40 acres that will encompass the homes, urging that activities such as snowmobiling, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing not be permitted in the surrounding acreage.

And, while commissioners indicated they weren’t anxious to see a stable and horses within the development, Byrne said horses should not be allowed at the stable from Nov. 15 to May 15. He also made a recommendation regarding where not to put the stable.

Commissioners, who have wrestled with the development’s potential impacts to wildlife in the sensitive area, had asked whether the elimination of any homes or the relocation of some lots would lessen its impacts.

The relocation of several lots has been suggested either by the Colorado Division of Wildlife or landowner Peter Droste; Byrne agreed with all but one of them.

Given the clustering of the lots, and the relatively small portion of land the project would consume, relative to the overall size of the property, Byrne concluded: “Removing a few lots would make the development more wildlife friendly, but this will not make a significant difference.”

He also said minimizing wildfire danger in the area of the homes by clearing some of the dense, mature vegetation – much of it is scrub oak – would benefit deer and elk. And, he advised that deer and elk hunting be allowed, and encouraged, at Brush Creek Ranch.

The Drostes have been working with the county on conceptual plans for Brush Creek Ranch for five years, after the county shot down a previous plan for 14 homes. In June, Droste suggested the county would breach conservation easements that protect nearly 600 of the 926-acre property if it denies the development application.

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