Where eagles pair: Nests may detour trail, activities near Kremmling cliffs
KREMMLING – A longtime effort to build a trail leading from Kremmling to Wolford Mountain Reservoir may be shifting course to avoid disturbing two golden eagle nests.But Kremmling Mayor Tom Clark feels a recommendation from the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) to limit new uses within 2,640 feet of the nests may call for a “political battle.”The buffer zone suggested by the state agency encroaches on existing town development, he said, and is much more expansive than the protection buffer required by the federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which limits activity around the nests within 660 feet.Clark said he can live with the Fish and Wildlife buffer, but “can’t live” with what the DOW has recommended. The majority of the board agrees with him in light of comments during a November town meeting.The proposed trail was tentatively mapped to start north of the PK-8 school, then connect to an existing trail on the other side of the cliffs. From a mile and a half on an existing motorized trail, the new non-motorized trail would then continue to the dam and reservoir.Kremmling citizen Jeff Miller, owner of Red Mountain RV Park, has been involved with the trail project for about seven years. “Roadblock, roadblock, roadblock,” he said about the progress thus far, the latest being the eagles’ nests.Miller said he became involved in the trail project to create a place for exercise and “family-structured” activities – outdoor nature walks and bicycling. It would also be a way to connect Kremmling to Wolford Mountain Reservoir other than the highway, and would provide an activity for visitors to the area.”Everything around Kremmling is mostly motorized,” he said. “This was one avenue to have a non-motorized trail, more of a nature trail.”A small group of individuals including Miller and the mayor originally set out to create a nature trail that followed Muddy Creek to Wolford Reservoir. But at least one private landowner never granted an easement, leaving the group no choice but to reroute the trail to the cliff where there are great views of Gore Canyon. But due to the two eagles’ nests, which the Colorado Division of Wildlife has been monitoring since 1975, the proposed trail is again being rerouted, this time to align with a lower elevation water line, according to Headwaters Trails Alliance Executive Director Mara McKnight. Part of the trail would be closer to U.S. Highway 40, she said. This other trail could be the best solution in avoiding the nest buffers, said David Boyd, public affairs specialist for the Bureau of Land Management, the agency that owns most of the trail land. But if that trail doesn’t work, he said, there remains the possibility of applying seasonal closures to the proposed cliff trail to protect eagle nesting.And any trail proposal eventually will be introduced to the public for comment in a formal manner through the BLM, Boyd said.Breeding eaglesGolden eagles are the largest birds in Colorado, with wing spans of an average 7 feet. Goldens are not federally endangered, but are protected raptors under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, last amended in 1978.As many as 14 golden eagle chicks have been born at the Kremmling nest site since 1975, according to Randy Hampton, spokesperson for the Division of Wildlife. The latest was in 2008, when one chick was born there. Hampton also noted that no chicks were born in 2005 and 2006, the period of construction for the new PK-8 school. “It’s possible those kinds of activities could have an impact,” Hampton said. “We do not oppose the trail in general. What we do have is concerns with the proposed location of that trail due to the longevity of these nests.”The cliff area has long been the location of a county road above the nests, and is the site were fireworks are launched on the Fourth of July and where an annual golfing event takes place during Kremmling Days in June. “They shoot fireworks off the cliff, but now they want to shut down a walking trail. It doesn’t make any sense,” Miller said. But such events are one-time occurrences, Hampton said, “similar to a thunderstorm,” versus a “sustained use” – such as a trail. Increases in levels of disturbances could force the eagles to nest elsewhere in the territory of other raptors, causing failure to nest and death of those animals, Hampton said.”It’s like me moving in next door to you and saying ‘your neighbor plays music really loud, so me partying all night and playing my music really loud shouldn’t bother you,'” he said.And, just as proponents of the trail want to introduce nature to young people right outside of their school, the state wildlife agency is against the trail in that location for the same reason.The Division gave the PK-8 school a viewing scope so young people could study the eagles’ nests. “What they would get if the trail was put through there is the opportunity to view where the eagles used to live,” Hampton said.- Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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