Garfield County commissioners resume consideration of bald eagle buffer zone removal at Aspen Glen
A request by owners of the Aspen Glen Golf Course to remove a restrictive bald eagle nest protection zone along the Roaring Fork River through the gated community near Carbondale comes back before the Garfield County commissioners Monday afternoon.
The Board of County Commissioners opened the public hearing on Sept. 21, during which more than 20 Aspen Glen residents and other members of the public opposed the request.
The Aspen Glen Golf Co., a division of real estate investments giant Apollo Global Management, is asking to remove the eagle nest buffer zone due to the fact that the historic nesting site the protections were intended for no longer exists.
Removing the buffer zone would allow for multiple parcels of land on either side of the river to be freed up for future residential development, as spelled out in the 1992 Aspen Glen PUD approvals.
Commissioners John Martin and Mike Samson postponed a decision and continued the hearing so they could conduct a site visit on Sept. 29. Commissioner Tom Jankovsky has recused himself from participating in the hearing, because he and his wife own a property management company with clients in Aspen Glen.
One piece of new information before the commissioners for Monday’s continued hearing is a verbal statement from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service migratory bird expert supporting a Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s position that the buffer zone is no longer warranted.
“The purpose of nest buffers is to avoid disturbing nesting eagles,” Gary Williams, acting chief of the USFWS’ regional Migratory Bird Permit Office, wrote in an Oct. 5 email to county planning staff.
“Given that, 1. The nest tree was blown over and the nest destroyed, and, 2. The pair (of eagles) has built a new nest within the subdivision and have once again successfully fledged young, it is our opinion that the existing buffer is no longer necessary,” he wrote.
Residents of the upscale subdivision, however, backed by the Roaring Fork Chapter of the Audubon Society and independent wildlife experts, say the buffer zone is still needed to protect what’s still an important foraging site for the eagles that frequent the area.
Protections are also needed for other types of wildlife that are present along the river, they contend.
Neighbors have also argued that the property owners, with help from CPW, installed a video camera in the tree where the nest was in 2016, spooking the eagles and causing them to leave the site. The top portion of the tree then blew down in summer 2018, destroying the vacant nest.
The continued public hearing is set for 1 p.m. Monday in the commissioners meeting room at the Garfield County Administration Building, 108 Eighth St., Glenwood Springs.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or email@example.com.
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