Colorado Elk Need Your Help
By Dave Shaffer
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) needs our help to Object to Negative Impacts on Elk & Mule Deer Habitat in Colorado
RMEF has prepared draft letters at the link below that you can edit and personalize. It can even send them to your representatives for you.
The objection period clock is ticking, so your advocacy is needed now!
The issue is RMEF first expressed concerns about the Mad Rabbit Trails Project in 2018 when an overly aggressive 50-mile, high-volume mountain bike and hiking trail system was proposed in Routt National Forest, impacting thousands of acres of important calving habitat for the E-2 Bears Ear elk herd. In November of 2022, RMEF expressed specific concerns about the official proposal, sharing new research that disturbance and habitat compression were a significant threat and that the environmental assessment (EA) was not properly analyzed in the proposal.
Extensive research shows the negative impact high-intensity recreation can have on wildlife, elk in particular. Hiking and biking disturbance leads to elk distribution shifts, and when the disturbance is in winter range and calving areas, it can lead to population declines through reduced recruitment. The Steamboat sub-herd is already demonstrating reduced calf:cow ratios from previous development.
Last winter, the area experienced catastrophic winter weather that devastated deer and elk herds. Survival rates were the lowest Colorado Parks and Wildlife has ever documented and below what CPW previously thought possible in elk. Antlerless elk hunting opportunity in E-2 was reduced by 89 percent to help the herd recover. A disruptive trail system in these critical habitats will diminish this recovery.
In last fall’s comment opportunity, RMEF, Colorado DNR and others asked the Forest Service to conduct a full environmental impact statement (EIS) to better guide the decision-making process. However, the U.S. Forest Service chose not to and issued a “finding of no significant impact.” RMEF recently filed a formal objection. Additionally, RMEF is encouraging its members to weigh in with Governor Polis and the Colorado congressional delegation to request a full EIS, and to reconsider their approval of the project.