Fate of Aspen Glen eagle buffer zone in Garfield County commissioners’ hands Monday afternoon
Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials stand behind a recommendation to remove a decades-old bald eagle nest buffer zone along the Roaring Fork Fork River within the Aspen Glen golf course development near Carbondale.
But that’s not to say certain protections of the riverfront habitat from new residential development aren’t warranted in doing so.
That was the upshot from a conversation in August between Garfield County planning staff and area wildlife officers Matt Yamashita and John Groves.
Details of that conversation, including several setback provisions should undeveloped parcels within the buffer zone be sold off and developed, are contained in a staff report that’s before the Garfield County commissioners Monday.
Commissioners are set to decide whether to remove the eagle nest buffer zone at the request of the corporate owners of the parcels and the golf course, the Aspen Glen Golf Co.
Several Aspen Glen homeowners, individually and through the formal position of the Homeowners’ Association, have objected to the removal of the buffer zone, saying it will negatively impact the riverfront habitat for the eagles and other wildlife, if the parcels are developed.
The area chapter of the National Audubon Society also has opposed the buffer zone removal.
“It is imperative to take any and all actions to conserve habitat for all our native animals, especially our indicator species, the birds,” Roaring Fork Audubon Chairwoman Mary Harris stated in a written comment to the commissioners.
The buffer zone was established in 1993 when Aspen Glen was first approved. It prevented development of three parcels of land near the river for as long as a historic bald eagle nest was present and restricted golf play on hole No. 10 whenever the eagles were actively nesting.
That nest was destroyed in 2018 when a windstorm broke off the upper part of the towering ponderosa pine where the nest was located. Aspen Glen Golf, a subsidiary of the national real estate development company Apollo, applied last year to have the buffer zone removed.
The Garfield County Planning Commission, following a July 28 hearing, recommended that the county commissioners approve the request. However, they also wanted more input from wildlife officers explaining their position.
A May 10 letter from Yamashita to the county advised that, even though bald eagles still frequent the area and have established a new nesting site farther upstream, the nest that was the subject of the buffer zone is no longer. Thus, the buffer zone is no longer warranted, he advised.
In his and Groves’ follow-up conversation with county planners, they did offer that it’s still important to maintain the river corridor for eagles and other riparian species with adequate setbacks.
“In accordance with referral comments received, staff supports addressing ongoing preservation or protection of habitat to meet the intent of the original eagle nest buffer zone to support ongoing bald eagle activities and nesting in the Aspen Glen area,” staff wrote in its recommendation for the Monday hearing. “This may include additional setback provisions on some of the affected parcels along the Roaring Fork River and adjacent to the BLM parcel.”
The three parcels combined account for about 14 acres of developable land, with zoning allowing for one-quarter to three-quarter acre lots, according to the staff report.
In addition to the proposed setbacks on the privately held parcels east and west of the river, a 10-acre tract of land held by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management serves as a buffer along the west riverbank.
Staff also is recommending that development on the parcels east of the river occur to the east of an irrigation ditch that runs through that area, providing an extra buffer away from the river. Any new building construction on the parcel west of the river should be outside the 100-year floodplain, staff also is advising.
The public hearing to consider the request to remove the eagle nest buffer zone is scheduled to begin during the county commissioners’ afternoon session, at 1 p.m., in the County Administration Building at 108 Eighth St., Room 100, Glenwood Springs.
The meeting also is accessible and public comment is to be taken via Zoom.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or email@example.com.
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