Why does a trail advocacy group work so hard to protect seasonal wildlife closures?
When we proposed to build the Everkrisp trail in 2017, we learned why seasonal wildlife closures exist and that our community was not informed or educated on their importance nor where and when they exist. Most people in our community thought these closures existed in the Spring because trails were muddy, not for wildlife. As a result, we launched our volunteer Trail Ambassador (TA) program, installed new signage and gates at trailheads, and significantly increased education and awareness around seasonal wildlife closures.
The main story here is that a new trail opportunity for our community led to the creation of a program to help educate our community to support wildlife.
Currently in its sixth year, the Trail Ambassador program continues to have significant impact educating our community on these trail closures and decreasing violations. The net effect is a positive one for our local wildlife.
Since the program was launched in 2018:
- 1,275+ Hours at Trailheads
- 945+ Volunteer Shifts
- Education at 25+ Trailheads
- 80-90% Decrease in Violations in the Six Years of the Program
- Over 2,000 users contacted at trailheads who are now educated
In fact, our program even got a shout out in CPW’s “Planning Trails with Wildlife In Mind” guiding document under best practices to manage recreation impacts on wildlife.
We have been collecting data with strategically placed game cameras on seasonally closed trails since the program inception. The goal of these cameras are to:
- Violations: understand how many people are violating these closures, what type of user they are, and patterns of use
- Wildlife: capture photos of wildlife in the area during the closure season
The table below tells the story of how impactful this program has become over the years. In 2017, the program did not exist, community outreach did not occur, signage and gates were basically non-existent. This data only shows the North Trail but the same data and story exists at other closed trails including Son of Middle Creek, Everkrisp, and more.
The data draws the conclusion and connects the dots that:
- The more volunteer hours that occur along with education, outreach, and improved signage & gates, leads to >
- The less violations; leads to >
- = Improving the health of wildlife
|Trail||Year||Volunteer Shifts||Volunteer Hours||Violations|
To further support this county wide effort, the VVMTA and Hardscrabble Trails Coalition launched the Respect the Wild Campaign. The elk and deer in Eagle County represent a pride point for many. They are also an essential part of a complicated and interconnected ecosystem. And living around humans poses challenges, especially with the changing of seasons and life cycles. There is still a large part of our community that is unaware of our impact.
We believe that by changing just three small, but important behaviors, we can have a big impact on how we recreate and interact with our environment.
- Respect trail closures
- Keep our dogs on leashes
- Leave wildlife alone & give them their space
We believe that we can help these majestic animals survive and thrive for generations to come.
We truly support that we all need to get outside and recreate year round through hiking, biking, fat biking, nordic skiing, snowshoeing, or walking your dog. We had so much fun partnering with 970 Design on this campaign and their creativity brought our vision to life.
In a few short months, the Respect the Wild campaign had significant impact since it went to market in February of 2023.
- 2,389 clicks (to the website RespectTheWild.com)
- 304 people took the pledge and are active ambassadors of these behavioral changes in our community
We are seeing improvement throughout our community. More people are aware of our impact, they know where to go, when to go and how to best minimize our impact while recreating. But there is more work to be done. Continuing the Respect the Wild campaign will continue to positively impact change with humor, peer pressure and positive rewards.
Ernest Wants You To Support our Trail Ambassador Program By:
Donate now to support our program with:
- Respect the Wild: This campaign deserves funding to increase it’s awareness and reach, please donate to support it
- Volunteer Swag: Volunteers are the core of this program and do we want to thank them with swag to wear out at the trailheads!
- Signage & Education Materials: Help us educate our community by providing the awareness necessary to provide them.