A proposed bike and pedestrian trail from Cortez to Mancos could adversely affect wildlife, and discussions are needed about ways to reduce impacts.
That’s the thrust of a March 6 letter from Colorado Parks and Wildlife to the state Department of Transportation regarding the Paths to Mesa Verde trail. The letter says outdoor recreation can have multiple negative impacts on wild animals because they try to avoid humans and thus may lose habitat. The letter says the trail was originally envisioned as being within the Highway 160 right-of-way, but now it is being considered for anywhere within a four-mile-wide corridor. CPW says nearly the entire area may be used by mule deer in winter and there are also three migration corridors crossing the highway. The letter says with deer numbers down by half in the last 30 years, maintaining migration corridors and seasonal habitat is critical. The agency also notes that the trail will likely be fenced, creating another obstacle for big game. The letter also expresses concern about active bald-eagle nests near the proposed trail and two rare fish species in Mud Creek and the Mancos River. CPW calls for an exploration of options to mitigate these problems. However, the Montezuma County commissioners have voiced anger over the letter, saying CPW continually impedes their efforts to boost recreation and economic development.