Vail considered conservation easement to protect key habitat
In Vail, Colorado, habitat preservation for bighorn sheep and other wildlife is currently on the table. Last week, the Vail Town Council met to review town-owned, undeveloped parcels as well as those north of Interstate 70 with regard to protecting acreage considered habitat for bighorn sheep, elk and mule deer, according to the Vail Daily.
“There are 11 parcels highlighted, most of them are falling within the habitat zone for wildlife and bighorn sheep in particular,” said Kristen Bertuglia, the town’s director of environmental sustainability. “There’s documented use of each of the parcels by bighorn sheep and most of them fall within their critical winter range.”
Out of these parcels, the town owns 217 acres with 190 of them designated as habitat for bighorn sheep, elk and mule deer. However, the council is split on what’s an “appropriate level of protection” and has referred some of the parcels to its Open Space Board of Trustees for additional review. Bertuglia said “the difference between designated open space and placing a conservation easement is the level of protection each offers.”
Four of the parcels are currently being considered for a conservation easement; however, more information needs to be gathered before any final decision is made.
“The purpose of the designated open space was: make it nearly impossible to utilize that land for anything but open space, a conservation easement would preclude the opportunity of taking that to a vote of the people to release it for some other use other than open space,” said Town Manager Russ Forrest.