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Grasping at straws

Dear Editors,

I was alarmed to hear that the Perins Peak State Wildlife Area has been harming wildlife! Wait ’til the Division of Wildlife, which established this area for preservation and protection, hears this! Well, I don’t think Ed really believes all that stuff he said about the wildlife area “hurting” wildlife. It’s just too ludicrous, so I suppose he’s grasping at straws to justify what he wants – putting a high-impact trail through it.

Apparently he feels the animals in Perins would be “safer” elsewhere during hunting season, even though all public lands in the area are open to hunting at the same time, including Perins. How would they be safer? And no, we have not been “luring unsuspecting wildlife into a sense of safety in the Perins Peak Wildlife Area, only to murder them during hunting season.” Sounds so sinister, as though each animal was herded in by the DOW, marked for certain death and penned in with no escape. In fact, wildlife seeks out this habitat, which gives them shelter, food and an escape from people when needed. They can wander where they want and may still be hunted wherever they end up on any public lands.

According to Ed, we’ve “invited” wildlife close to residential areas “where they inadvertently consume things we didn’t intend for them to eat.” So the idea seems to be to push them away from this area and let them exist on pine needles and rocks, higher up, perhaps? I’m sure that eventually they’ll learn to love this new food supply.

But, wait a minute, I believe all this wildlife was here before humans. In fact, we are in their territory, in their dining room, their nurseries, which they rely on and evolved in. There exists scientific studies supporting the need for this and other low-elevation, quality habitat, in wildlife areas like Perins, but apparently science is out of fashion these days, perhaps incomprehensible to closed minds. Too, individual “needs” are “in.”

So, he suggests, we build wildlife areas away from residential areas. But with continued population growth of humans, who have obviously never heard of birth control, what does that leave? It leaves the national forests and BLM lands, which are already doing their job as habitat and cannot forever continue to support all new wildlife refugees that we’ve driven away, in order to save the poor reacreationists who are “forced” (my sides are splitting!) to go down Junction Creek unless they can have their trail. (Never mind that they will, of course, still go down Junction Creek, though without force – this is a matter for the road department to remedy.)

I’m a recreationist, too, and I use a lot of trails, but I don’t have to have EVERYTHING! We’ve lost good habitat in the areas of Ridges Basin, Animas Valley and Greenmount Cemetery, and those are just the most recent losses. Do we not have the integrity to protect what we have established for wildlife in Perins?

And finally, if you are worried, as Ed is, about someone hitting an animal with a gas-guzzler - SLOW DOWN, and try not to drive at night!

– Sincerely, Jan Holt

P.S. How do you like the $40,000-plus the county is spending to secure trail access in the wildlife area? It’s your tax money!

Spinning Perins Peak

Dear Editors,

Congratulations Durango! We seem to now have our very own “Rovian Spin Doctor” in town, and he has concocted a spin to take our focus away from the real issue regarding Perins Peak. (Letter to editor by Ed Zink, Sept. 1, 2005, owner of Mountain Bike Specialists).

Let’s look at some of the facts – Perins Peak was set aside to protect the habitat for the species that depend upon contiguous (not fragmented) ecosystems. When Perins Peak was set aside there were other habitats available for wildlife. Now, as Ridges Basin Reservoir is poised to drown critical elk habitat, Grandview is being converted into houses, and the Animas Valley is being swallowed up acre by acre, the ecological value of Perins Peak increases daily. A common misconception, and an issue of importance to this discussion, is that wildlife does not use the same habitats all year long – they need to migrate back and forth to areas that will support them seasonally.

The issue at Perins Peak is not about hunting; it is about gaining access for bicyclists to areas set aside for wildlife. Scientific study has shown beyond a doubt that once a habitat is fragmented, the ecological integrity of the area decreases and species suffer. Some would have you believe that wildlife will adapt to these changes – the majority of them do not, especially those that are habitat specific. Worse yet, once you open up an area to intensive use (30,000-plus people a year) it will lead to more trails and use throughout the area. Perins Peak – still connected to higher elevation habitats – was set aside to provide intact low- and mid-elevation habitats that would allow species to continue to live without having to dodge cars, dirt bikes, bicyclists, dogs and ATVs.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife, the experts on wildlife management in the state of Colorado, does an excellent job of managing the area and the wildlife that lives there. Yes, Perins Peak is open to limited, permitted, hunting but it is hardly the “death zone” that has been portrayed. Let CDOW do their job.

The issue at Perins Peak is all about granting access to the area for over 30,000 people who are interested in expanding their biking experience. Our county commissioners seem to have bought into the Rovian logic of “induced harm of the environment” in lieu of leaving Perins Peak to the wildlife and are willing to spend thousands of our tax dollars to help the mountain biking special interest groups get their way. George W. would be proud.

If indeed the mountain biking community is interested in setting aside other “wildlife areas” to replace Perins Peak, then they should be the first ones to ante up the millions of dollars it will take to replace the unique habitat of Perins Peak.

– Dave Wegner, Friends of the Animas River

Habitat preservation paramount

(Editors’ note: The following letter was sent to the La Plata County commissioners and is being reprinted here at the author’s request.)

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to say that I have hiked segments of the Colorado Trail. I’m even prouder that my daughter-in-law, Stephanie Shrago, has hiked it all, from one end to the other. I honor the trail, and all of the work that has gone into making it a reality.

I do not agree with current plans to extend the trail through the Perins Peak State Wildlife Area. This land was set aside for wildlife, and it should remain that way. To allow more than 20,000 people each year a path to travel through this low-elevation habitat would be very disruptive to wildlife.

Recently, I have been studying conservation biology. Although I’m not an expert in the field, I do know that preservation of habitat is the most important action that we can take to conserve wildlife. Routing the Colorado Trail through Perins Peak State Wildlife Area would be like running Highway 160 through your bedroom! Although some animals will adjust to this incursion, many of the others – particularly the smaller wildlife – will never recover.

One memory may help point out the danger of this proposed routing. When we lived on Forest Avenue I would bike west on Highway 160, not far from Perins Peak. On one trip I was stopped by a shape that was difficult to identify, covered with dirt, lying in the gutter. After a couple of minutes I realized that I was looking at a stillborn fawn still attached by its umbilical cord to the placenta. Although just a human obstetrician, I can surmise that the stress of the traffic caused the mother doe to lose her baby. Hikers and bicyclists may not be as imposing as the traffic on 160, but they will still be stressful to wildlife.

Please do not allow the habitat of the Perins Peak State Wildlife Area to be harmed by routing the Colorado Trail through it.

– Richard A. Grossman, MD, Durango

Put a stop to land grabs, greed

Dear Editors,

Brownies and funnel cakes: It’s time for county commissioners to get out their favorite recipes, cookie sheets and oven mitts. It’s time they throw a bake sale to cover expenses of attorneys hired by them on behalf of trail interests – but paid for by the general public – to challenge the mission of the Colorado Division of Wildlife to manage Perins Peak State Wildlife Area for wildlife and habitat protection.

Hired hands are preparing the county’s case and will be appearing at a five-day trial, planned to begin Sept. 12. Instead, county commissioners could acknowledge the public’s values made clear in the county’s own public survey, in 1996, showing more than 90 percent of us wanting wildlife taken into account in land use issues, and 69 percent stipulating the natural environment and open space as top priorities. Only 12 percent of us said development should have precedence over other values.

Perins was purchased in 1971 without the use of public funds, which is significant. State wildlife areas are, by law, managed for wildlife, not for multiple uses. The county could recognize its defeat by the state last Aug. 1, in the court’s summary judgment against county claims. It could admit the county had zero interest in an alleged road, a wagon trail up Dry Gulch, until approached by mountain biking enthusiasts nearly 20 years after original negotiations for Perins Peak State Wildlife Area was undertaken. County commissioners could sign off on this greedy use of public funds before the trial begins. Then it can attend to real issues, like county road safety.

One county commissioner insists this lawsuit is about property rights. Another is more honest, declaring publicly that this attempt at access is about extension of the Colorado Trail into the heart of Durango (See Telegraph feature story http://www.durangotelegraph.com/02-12-05/cover_story.htm ).

Ed Zink, owner of Mountain Bike Specialists, says in all his mountain-biking wisdom that Perins Peak State Wildlife Area is bad for wildlife and should be opened, that wildlife should go where people are not. (Telegraph 9/1) But Perins was purchased for just that reason: People aren’t supposed to be there for nearly three-quarters of the year and for well-studied scientific reasons.

Though Trails 2000 website states “wildlife” would adapt to incursion into Perins, glopping complex relationships of species-to-habitat into one word, many simply do not “adapt.” Further, study after study refutes the contention that a trail at the “edge” of Perins won’t have an impact. Excuse me: 30,000 plus Colorado Trail users, dogs, trail-cutting and introduction of noxious weeds is “no impact?”

In spite of science and public outcry that, less than three years ago, saved Perins from incursion, in spite of the Colorado Wildlife Commission, in the mid-1980s, turning down trail requests in Perins, or Gudy Gaskill, mother of the Colorado Trail, opposing trail extension into Perins, the county insists on using public funds to push for more and more play space for a segment of the population that already has, at minimum, 775 miles of trails to play on in La Plata County and immediate vicinity. Where do we stop land grabs and greed, if not at the boundary of an area already set aside to protect those without voice or good ’ol boy access to commissioners’ offices?

– Nancy Jacques, Durango

Send light to New Orleans

Dear Editors,

I am an Independent Candle Consultant with PartyLite Gifts, the No. 1 direct sales company for candles and candle accessories. I have started a fund-raiser for hurricane relief to run through 9/22/05. When customers make their purchases through the catalogs, I will donate 20 percent of my profits to the Red Cross. As the consultant and hostess, I receive profit and free merchandise (25 percent of the total sales before shipping and tax) which also will be donated (candles) for those in need in the South.

To view the catalogs, customers can view my website at: www.partylite.biz/dreamextreme . Click on Host Connection, use the pass code of GP90, click on “make a wish list,” then browse catalogs. Orders will need to be placed through Lee Tozer-Reusink either through e-mail at reusink@frontier.net or by calling (970)259-1836. I can accept Visa, MC, Discover, personal checks and cash or money orders at the time the order is placed.

Please contact me for a catalog if you don’t have access to a computer and would like to place an order. Thank you.

– Sincerely, Lee Tozer-Reusink, Durango