CWF comments re Colorado Trails Strategic Plan draft goals

May 16, 2016

 Colorado Parks and Wildlife developed vision and mission statements, and draft goals for its Colorado Trails Strategic Plan.  the plan has not been written yet.

 Below is the comment letter submitted by Colorado Wildlife Federation to Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

 

May 2, 2016

Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Attn: Josh Garcia, Jody Kennedy, Margaret Taylor, Tom Morrissey

Colorado Parks and Wildlife

 

Re: Comments re the Colorado Trails Strategic Plan Mission and Goals

Transmitted via email

 

Dear Josh, Jody, Margaret and Tom: 

Colorado Wildlife Federation (CWF) appreciates the opportunity to provide our input on the proposed Trails Strategic Plan's Vision, Mission Statement and Strategic Goals.  Trails are a valuable resource for the community in promoting health, fitness, and a connection with nature. We value trails and other recreational opportunities for residents of and visitors to our beautiful state while protecting important wildlife habitat.  As Colorado's population is projected to increase by more than 40 percent by 2040 to 8 million residents, one should assume a significantly greater number of Coloradans and visitors will use existing trails and also accelerate the demand for more and more trails. To retain a balance between additional trails and the needs of Colorado's extraordinary wildlife resource, the mission and strategic goals simply must include provisions that emphasize protection of habitats.

With these thoughts and values in mind, CWF offers the following comments.

Vision and Mission Statements

CWF believes that the Mission Statement would benefit from a sentence that avows CPW's  leadership role to plan, route and design trails that fully consider and avoid or minimize impacts to wildlife habitats, and safeguard unfragmented landscape scale habitats.  In addition, we urge a reference be made to CPW 2015 Strategic Plan, Goal I (Conserve wildlife and habitat to ensure healthy sustainable populations and ecosystems).  These prescriptive additions are essential as wildlife and recreation goals are intended to be in balance.

Strategic Goals

We appreciate that three of the goals incorporate references to wildlife.  The strongest reference is contained in the first goal, as it incorporates a focus "on sustainable trails that protect the environment, sensitive species and wildlife habitat." CWF believes it is essential to elevate this statement to the level of a strategic goal rather than being embedded in another goal.

Our concern is about unintended, yet cumulative adverse impacts to wildlife habitats from the current and future number, length, and connections of trails in some areas (sometimes in addition to other development).

We understand that in an effort to balance trails-based recreation with wildlife needs for well-functioning habitats, CPW uses a wildlife assessment or screening procedure and form for proposed trails. We commend and appreciate this tool but do not know how its output is used in the decision making processes. CWF urges CPW to address this question clearly in the Trails Strategic Plan.  While we are impressed with the wisdom articulated in the goals, experience has taught us to maintain a concern that goals can become obscured during the implementation process, resulting in an outcome that fails to achieve the proper balance.

In some cases, the outcome should be that a proposed trail does not move forward into planning and design stages --rather than mitigation planning for a trail-- because of conflict with a migratory or movement corridor.  In particular situations, recommendations in the wildlife assessment must be heeded to ensure appropriate location and design of a trail protects effectively functioning habitats. Some proposed trails may envision lengthy stretches that are not easily accessible from existing roads and where construction will require use of heavy machinery.  For certain trails, closure during certain times of the year might be necessary to protect wildlife species during the nesting or breeding season.  Another matter to attend to in the plan is monitoring protocols for trail areas where the wildlife assessment has specified impacts to prevent or minimize.  As to CPW's state wildlife areas, the intent is to maintain wildlife populations and habitat.  The wildlife must enjoy the highest priority, and development of trails should only be considered when it is appropriate, and non-damaging to the wildlife or habitat.

The second and third references to wildlife in the third and fourth strategic goals are very important. (They are, "Builds awareness of the importance of wildlife habitat conservation" and "Highlights the importance of natural resources conservation, including wildlife and habitat ....".)    These two points will be accorded greater emphasis if they are listed under a goal that specifically addresses wildlife, as recommended above.

 

Sincerely,

Suzanne O'Neill

Executive Director

Colorado Wildlife Federation

 

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