Colorado’s out of doors recreation increase endangers elk herds

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A surge in outdoor adventurers in Colorado is threatening critical habitat for the state’s moose populations, according to new analysis from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

Threat Level: The report estimates that local recreational trails endanger more than 40% of the routes that herds of Colorado moose depend on to breed, forage, and survive.

  • With trail use increasing by 44% between 2014 and 2019, the surge in outdoor activity is compounding existing challenges faced by large mammals – such as habitat loss due to human development and climate change.
  • Consequently, some local elk populations are declining.

Why it matters: “Outdoor recreation is a cornerstone of Colorado’s economy and central to our state’s identity,” “which is why the science-based management of our natural resources—including wildlife—is so critical,” said Liz Rose, Colorado field representative for the partnership.

Something to see: The report urges Colorado policymakers to take action, including avoiding moose habitat, when planning future recreation infrastructure.

  • The Conservation Partnership, a hunting and fishing advocacy group, also proposes limiting the use of vehicles and trails during certain times of the year when moose or other big game animals are around, and limiting the density of these roads and trails when time of use is restricted are not practical.

What you say: “This analysis is intended to ease the conversation and provide useful information so land managers and outdoor recreation seekers can more effectively conserve iconic big game species like moose while enjoying quality recreational opportunities,” said Rose.

What’s next: Colorado land managers are pursuing an overhaul of how state officials manage moose and other large game habitat to preserve migratory corridors and other important habitats.

  • Management decisions could affect millions of acres of land and include restrictions on everything from trail use to oil and gas development in the area, the Pew Charitable Trusts said.