Protect and Restore Wildlife Habitat
65% of key wildlife populations in Chaffee County are already in decline. To achieve the challenging goal of protecting wildlife, the Rec Council created the Wildlife Decision Tools for Recreation to identify areas that are most important to protect, enhance or restore, including areas where current recreation needs to be carefully managed to support wildlife. The tool also defines areas that are great for recreation development, such as the Community Concentration Zones.
The maps help focus future habitat improvement projects and new recreation development in the right areas. They can inform voluntary seasonal closures that give wildlife a break and recreation relocation efforts, such as helping campers find appropriate sites away from boreal toad breeding areas.
The wildlife tool is based on information about 44 species, current development, and research by biologists at CPW, USFS, BLM and other organizations. The resulting map helps the county create opportunities that protect the wildlife users love.
Offering a place where people can confidently recreate responsibly is an important culture change proposed by this plan. 95% of survey respondents said that managing recreation to support wildlife large and small is important – even more important than retaining multi-use experiences (83%) and adding trails/roads (43%).
Not only do recreation users highly value the wildlife experience but local lands provide regionally important habitat. CPW data show that Mule Deer collared in their winter habitat in Chaffee County spend their summers across eight adjacent counties from I-70 to Guffy to Westcliffe. Economic data collected for the Chaffee Recreation Report also shows that wildlife-related recreation (fishing and hunting and wildlife viewing) is the largest contributor to the local recreation economy, at an estimated $70 million per-year benefit. The wildlife strategies require change and tradeoffs but offer opportunity to provide recreation opportunities all users can feel good about.
Chaffee County Rec for Seasonal Wildlife maps showing the potential severity of recreation activity on wildlife in production habitat (left) and winter habitat (right).