Bighorn sheep, mountain goat and elk herds in the Roaring Fork Watershed are all the focus of Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) studies that employ GPS tracking collars to determine herd movements, animal interactions and, in the case of elk, calf mortality.
New in this effort is the involvement of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails (OST), which has budgeted roughly $92,000 in 2019 to help fund the tracking equipment; another $54,000 allocation is also contemplated in 2020.
It’s still dark outside when Simon deftly eases the PistenBully grooming machine out of the garage bay door and onto the snow-covered Aspen Golf Course.
The landscape, so familiar during daylight hours, is disorienting at night to the uninitiated. Immediately, Simon adjusts the multi-function control stick in his right hand and begins rolling a new layer of corduroy over the multitude of diagonal gouges scratched into the snowpack by the prior day’s Nordic skiers. After checking his work in the rear window, he re-adjusts to ensure the grooming machine is erasing the scuffed-up surface, combing it into a smooth ribbon of rolled snow. We’re moving at speed 6 on a machine with speed settings of 1 (are we moving?) to 9 (slow).
The majority of land acreage protected by Pitkin County Open Space and Trails funding is held privately as conservation easements. A conservation easement is a legal agreement between a landowner and qualified organization in which perpetual restrictions are placed on a property to protect identified conservation values and limit development. Simply put, a conservation easement allows a private property owner to protect their property from unwanted activities forever.
Pitkin County was granted its first easement in 1983, seven years before the creation of the Open Space and Trails (OST) program. After the creation of OST, the County had funding to purchase conservation easements; to date it has spent over $32 million working with landowners in Pitkin County to create conservation easements that protect agricultural, wildlife, scenic, historic and recreation values. Pitkin County holds 62 conservation easements that are managed by OST.