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published Sep 2018
American Trails Staff
Offering wildlife interpretation and environmental education to trail users can play an important role in reducing impacts to wildlife. People more readily protect what they understand and appreciate.
The construction of a trail is just one impact on the habitat it passes through. The activities of visitors and the response of wildlife are also components of the long-term trail impacts.
Assessing the amount of human disturbance already along a potential trail alignment can help set more real- istic wildlife goals for a trail project. Trail alignments may pass through one or more of the general levels of modification along a gradient from urban to pristine.
While some species (such as bald eagle and Ute ladies-tresses orchids) and habitats (such as wetlands) have legal status that must be respected in the process of trail building, others may deserve special attention because of the value placed on them by a local community.
By understanding the relative quality of riparian areas, it may be possible to find places within the riparian zone for trails that will have less impact on wildlife.
Looking at resources from a regional or landscape-wide perspective helps identify where trails should go and which areas should be conserved for wildlife.
Protecting large, undisturbed areas of wildlife habitat should be a priority. Deciding whether or not to build a trail that may contribute to fragmentation is a tradeoff that the local community or land manager will have to make.
A trail’s area of influence should be planned and managed as an integral part of the trail. This influence zone should provide recreationists with meaningful interactions with nature, without infringing on sensitive habitat.
The checklist focuses specifically on wildlife issues of trail planning and is designed to mirror comprehensive planning processes.
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