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Wildlife and environmental issues

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Creating a Trails and Wildlife Task Force

Colorado State Parks convenes a Trails and Wildlife Task Force to look at impacts of trails and to produce a Trail Development Workbook to guide trail planning (1999).

By Stuart H. Macdonald

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Are trails a threat to wildlife and the environment? What kinds of impacts do trail development cause? What can we do to minimize these impacts? These are some of the important questions that participants will ask when State Parks convenes a Trails and Wildlife Task Force.

With increasing trail use and urban development, we agreed with Great Outdoors Colorado (lottery funding group) and environmental groups that it is appropriate to review the State Trails Program grant process, particularly in regard to issues of trail recreation and the environment. The task force will be comprised of 15 key stakeholders and experts on habitat and recreation issues, to be facilitated by Joyce Berry of CSU's Environmental and Natural Resources Policy Institute. The project will be completed over the next year.

Action Plan for Trails and Wildlife Project

Understand and define the issues.

Review current research and information on trail impacts.

Make recommendations for improving State Trails Program grants process and project review.

Produce a Trail Development Workbook to help project sponsors plan better trails.

Produce a report on trails and wildlife issues with recommended actions.

Make recommendations for research needed and possible funding.

Incorporate findings into updated State Trails Master Plan.

Provide materials and speakers for workshops and symposia of the State Trails Program.

Project Objectives

This list of preliminary project objectives will be adapted by the Task Force into a final set of objectives.

Identify resources for reviewing environmental impacts, databases, information sources for critical species and habitat types.

Identify known recreation impacts to particular species in particular areas.

Identify most critical areas of concern, most threatened habitat types.

Identify good examples for case studies: trails with wildlife benefits or projects that have gone through a useful process of analyzing the trail's environment and adapting the trails in some beneficial ways.

Publicize facts, issues, information available among trail planners and advocates as well as among wildlife/environmental advocates.

Review federal land management process and how it applies to trails.

Review local government environmental compliance and how laws apply to trails.

Review motorized trail issues: how they are different and similar to non-motorized trails; and how federal land management plans control existing and future OHV recreation.

Identify evidence for particular impacts by particular trail activities.

Identify strategies that have been used successfully to reduce wildlife impacts while allowing trail development: seasonal closures, no dogs, special regulations, special structures, etc.

Trail Development Workbook

The Trail Development Workbook will include:

Discussion and clear definitions of the concepts used in environmental discussions, such as "habitat fragmentation," "riparian habitat," "impacts," "threatened and endangered species," etc.

A checklist for trail planners on things to look for, actions to consider, etc. as part of the trail planning and development process.

List of agencies and organizations that can be contacted to help with environmental review, to identify rare species, and to help interpret findings.

A list of trails contacts that have experience on environmental and wildlife issues.

Case studies of good example trails.

How trails can use environmental education and watchable wildlife facilities to provide environmental benefits.

Which species and which habitat types should be most carefully evaluated.

How the federal land management process works.

Examples of how local governments comply with environmental regulations and how they apply to trails and recreation.

Examples and resources for improving wildlife habitat along trails and greenways.

For more information see Planning Trails with Wildlife in Mind: a Handbook for Trail Planners

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