Expanding Recreation and Wildlife Impacts: Where do we Draw the Line?

“(That’s) why wildlife disappears. What takes courage, conviction and forward-thinking vision is consciously choosing not to blaze a trail out of respect for animals that have limited home ground to inhabit, and far fewer options to survive than we do to play.” -Todd Wilkinson (Mountain Journal)

Desjardin, L. (2022, April 5). Guest commentary — Keeping Routt Wild: when is enough enough? Steamboat Pilot and Today. Retrieved from

The quote above says it all, why do we continue to plow over habitats of wildlife who have fewer places to live than we have to play? In recent years the surge in recreation and expansion of roads and trails into wildland areas has taken its toll on wildlife. In the last 10 years, the elk herds in the Vail and Roaring Fork Valleys have experienced a 50% reduction in population. The growing surge in recreation and poorly planned trail expansions in these areas and all over the west have led to drastically reduced wildlife habitats and these animals are not just moving to other areas, they are dying. These issues bring very important questions to the table. How do balance the growing surge in recreation with the preservation of wildlife habitats? Where can we expand trail systems to accommodate overcrowding without further impacting these habitats? Moving forward, a conscious and calculated effort needs to be made in order to properly understand wildlife habitats and migration patterns before we continue to overcrowd their homes and chase them into increasingly smaller areas.