The Pitkin County Open Space and Trails department is seeking public input on a new habitat management policy.
Dale Will, open space and trails director, said there are two frequent complaints he hears from users of public land — those who think the department is not doing enough to preserve the natural environment of its 17 properties, and those who grumble when recreational areas are shut down.
The proposed policy states that all management plans should be based on site-specific research. Will said having actual habitat studies to point to will help quell complaints that an area is mis-managed.
“Most generalizations about protecting wildlife are just wrong,” he said. “You have to know the specifics of what species are there, what are their tolerances for different sorts of things. Some people don't know that there are some species that do better if there are humans milling around.”
The policy formalizes a system that is already in place. The most recent management plan for Sky Mountain Park was based off of a one hundred thousand dollar wildlife study.
Jim Kravitz is the Naturalist Programs Director at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. He says there are some species that need their distance during certain times of the year, like ground-nesting birds in the spring, and elk migration corridors. Some sensitive flora and fauna need more preservation though.
“We may not see it on the fungus or on the beetle, but they are all contributing to the larger picture,” said Kravitz.
The county’s management plans take into consideration the natural wildlife, the agricultural use of public land, and the recreational use. Changes at the Northstar Preserve this year include additional staff and increased law enforcement presence to curb its reputation as a party spot.
But Will says his mission is not to entirely remove humans from interacting with open space. In fact, they are crucial to its longevity.
“Again and again people have studied why people protect the environment and it’s because they love the environment and they are out in it,” he said.
A link to the proposed management policy is available here. Public comment is being accepted through June 24th.