The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority board will decide whether or not to accept their wildlife biologists’ recommendations to extend closures on the new Rio Grande bike trail at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 10, at the Carbondale Town Hall. These recommendations will help encourage the return of herons that deserted their eggs when the trail opened too early last year. Members of the Audubon Society, Colorado Division of Wildlife, local wildlife biologists, and nearly everyone else with the courage to address this issue has asked for longer closures; but vocal members of the RFTA board are lobbying to do the opposite and drop closures, sacrificing the remaining wildlife for year-round use of this trail. The trail is beautiful and overwhelmingly popular. This does not dismiss our responsibilities to wildlife. A bike trail through Maroon Bells Wilderness area would be even more beautiful and just as popular, if everyone could be convinced it wasn’t as harmful to wildlife as the Rio Grande Trail. The Maroon Bells Wilderness Area is summer habitat for wildlife, which is not nearly as limited as the winter habitat threatened or already destroyed by the new trail. When animals are displaced from their remaining winter habitat, they are removed from the population. It would be difficult to find another area where so much wildlife could be impacted by a few miles of pavement. In addition to herons, the wintering bald eagles have abandoned their DOW-designated winter habitat along this stretch. This could have been avoided if RFTA followed their Categorical Exclusion requirements to close the trail by Nov. 15. The Audubon Society and DOW have also requested earlier closures to protect eagle habitat. RFTA’s own wildlife study states the greatest impacts to deer, elk, and eagles occur during late October through November when these animals are migrating back to this area. We can still have a great bike trail without destroying wildlife if we are willing to share just a little. Please attend this meeting or forward comments to the RFTA board through Mike Hermes at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jim DukeCarbondale
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