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Increased Outdoor Recreation Comes at a Cost

The rapidly declining number of elk around Vail, Colorado reveals the impacts of the increasing population of outdoor recreation.
September 12, 2019, 2pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Outdoor Recreation

"Trail use near Vail, Colorado, has more than doubled since 2009. It’s had a devastating impact on a herd of elk," according to an article by Christine Peterson.

Biologists used to count over 1,000 head of elk from the air near Vail, Colorado. The majestic brown animals, a symbol of the American west, dotted hundreds of square miles of slopes and valleys.

But when researchers flew the same area in February for an annual elk count, they saw only 53.

It might be easy to assume that the declining numbers of elk result from familiar culprits, like fossil fuel development, herd mismanagement, or predators, but the actual culprit is a population ostensibly sympathetic to natural balance.

"It’s increasing numbers of outdoor recreationists – everything from hikers, mountain bikers and backcountry skiers to Jeep, all-terrain vehicle and motorcycle riders," according to Peterson.

Researchers are now starting to understand why outdoor recreation is so bad for the elk, as the entire nation reckons with the increased impacts as more visitors fill the nation's wild areas. Still, the declining numbers of Vail elk might be one of the "more egregious examples," of the impact on wildfire from the multiplying number of visitors.

Full Story:
Published on Sunday, August 25, 2019 in The Guardian
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