Great Video On Human Caused Disturbance Studies of Elk

COEngineer

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There was a topic during the CPW commission meeting yesterday about the process over the last year to develop a document titled Planning Trails with Wildlife in Mind. I had a pit in my stomach listening to the presentation, primarily because of the number of times the word "collaboration" was used. ;) The draft is not quite ready for public consumption yet, but I understand that it should be available for public comment sometime in the next week. You can watch the presentation here. I spoke with a friend who was involved in the project and he said there are some good things in it, but some issues as well. The issues include a lack of landscape-level consideration, a lack of teeth to incentivize the use of this guidance, and it's a long document. But it's only guidance.

The next item on the agenda following this presentation was the annual consideration and approval of non-motorized trail grant funding. That presentation begins here. This year the committee recommended about $3.5 million in projects for approval. About 52% of that is for maintenance and the balance is for planning and construction. I can't think of any trails projects that would be considered a positive for wildlife. Correct me if I'm forgetting something. So this annual process of funding new trails is a net reduction for wildlife, and all we can do is work to make that reduction as least impactful as possible.

Before the Commission ultimately approved the project, Commissioner Tuchton asked some questions about one particular proposal that had been denied last year due to impacts to bighorn sheep. I think it's worthwhile to listen to his questions and the explanation in order to better understand the process of minimizing that net reduction I mentioned above. It was a pretty discouraging exchange. You can listen to Commissioner Tuchton's questions and the reply from NE Regional Manager Mark Leslie here. Note specifically his comments about it being "incumbent upon us to compromise when we can," that "in many instances, if we don't fund it we don't have a seat at the table," and the fact that even if they do require things like seasonal closures and dog restrictions, there is no budget for enforcement.

While I was listening to this meeting yesterday, the preview for the video in the OP came across my news feed. It was a startling dichotomy.
Oak, very thoughtful comment. I just listened to the portions of the meeting you linked above and I was equally discouraged and encouraged. Discouraged by the % of the trails grants that went to new construction - I think we could spend the whole budget on maintenance and/or closure of existing trails and still not make a dent in the miles and miles of 'social' (ie unauthorized) trails that are out there. Also discouraged by the throwing-hands-in-the-air 🤷‍♀️ presumption that enforcement is never going to happen (for seasonal closures, dog restrictions, etc). Encouraged by the increased awareness of human disturbance impacts on our wildlife.
 

wllm1313

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Manetheren
Here is one of my favorite population "estimates" of all times....................

unit 44 deer
2004​
7520​
2005​
8790​
2006​
10160
2007​
3660​
2008​
2560​
Nothing to see over here folks... totally fine... just doin math and stuff
 

Bambistew

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Chugiak, AK
Here is one of my favorite population "estimates" of all times....................

unit 44 deer
2004​
7520​
2005​
8790​
2006​
10160
2007​
3660​
2008​
2560​
I'm pretty sure they guys running the models secretly pray for a bad winter every now and then so they can make "adjustments."
 

wllm1313

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Manetheren
Oak, very thoughtful comment. I just listened to the portions of the meeting you linked above and I was equally discouraged and encouraged. Discouraged by the % of the trails grants that went to new construction - I think we could spend the whole budget on maintenance and/or closure of existing trails and still not make a dent in the miles and miles of 'social' (ie unauthorized) trails that are out there. Also discouraged by the throwing-hands-in-the-air 🤷‍♀️ presumption that enforcement is never going to happen (for seasonal closures, dog restrictions, etc). Encouraged by the increased awareness of human disturbance impacts on our wildlife.
I think I was most discouraged by the lack of trail projects on the eastern plains.

Seems like the only thing we focus on is send more and more people into the mountains every weekend. I'd like to see a greater focus put on building amenities out east providing alternatives to sitting on I-70 every weekend.

Commissioner Blecha, nailed it when discussing the application. The way the application is written in and of itself discourages eastern projects due to their inherent differences.
 

COEngineer

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I think I was most discouraged by the lack of trail projects on the eastern plains.

Seems like the only thing we focus on is send more and more people into the mountains every weekend. I'd like to see a greater focus put on building amenities out east providing alternatives to sitting on I-70 every weekend.
It's a nice thought, but no one moved to CO to recreate in Kansas.
 

LopeHunter

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MO-->CA-->NW-->AZ&NW
To be clear, recruitment is definitely an issue in some DAU, and the impacts of recreation are a huge problem. In some regards, I feel like we are managing some of these populations into a death spiral. Fragmentation and declining quality of habitat, impacts of recreation, vehicle collisions, etc, cause population declines. CPW writes a new herd management plan with a lower population objective (aka, what we currently have) because they claim the habitat will not support the elk. They begin managing for this lower population (hunting licenses), etc.

When a land-use decision comes up and there are concerns about the impacts on wildlife, the proponents can pull out the management plan and say, "Hey, you are at objective in this herd. What's the problem?" Plan gets approved, habitat quality/quantity suffers, populations decline. Rinse, repeat.

Shed antler hunters, legal and illegal, bump pregnant cows causing stress that impedes calf development and even creating lost pregnancies. ATVs noise and presence create issue when riders bump herds creating stress and increase harvest pressure in what could be a relative sanctuary if fat dudes had to actually use boot leather to approach those same elk. I would rant further but am going to sight in my new MT rifle. No, not a Montana rifle but one that can shoot to 26 miles. Yep, a MaraThon MT special. Long range has a new daddy.
 
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