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July 17, 2019

Balancing Conservation and Outdoor Recreation

Our public lands are a vital resource that Coloradans – and Americans – value and enjoy for abundant wildlife and outdoor recreational opportunities. Pressure on blocks of sensitive wildlife habitat, migration corridors and wildlife populations is increasing on our public lands from numerous sources. Proliferation of outdoor recreational trails on public lands is becoming an increasing contributor to degradation and fragmentation of some important backcountry habitat blocks and is impacting wildlife species that are sensitive to human activities. Protecting intact wildlife habitats such as winter concentration areas and migration corridors must be valued in practice when proposing, planning, and constructing new and expanded recreational non-motorized trail-based development. It is important that legislators, public lands agencies, elected officials and the policy makers  – as well as users – fully consider wildlife needs when doing so.

By way of example, according to a 2018 peer-reviewed study, elk avoided trail-based recreation by distances that decreased from 1640 yards for ATV riding, to somewhat less for mountain bikers, down to 550 yards for hikers. If you would like to receive an electronic copy our literature survey, let us know. We appreciate the pilot by the State Trails Committee to change the planning, construction and maintenance non-motorized grant categories in grant applications. The wildlife and natural resources criterion now will be weighted at the same level as other criteria. New questions in the planning grant application require a description of how impacts to wildlife and habitat, including how fragmentation will be avoided or minimized. Applicants must now include maps of the proposed areas to help assess the proposed project on a landscape level.  It will be important to see how the State Trails Committee and CPW ensure planning grant awardees will work effectively with CPW during the planning process to implement the representations made in the application in response to these and other questions.

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