Name games. It’s been amusing to watch Federal land managers creating de facto legal Wilderness by creating “Wilderness Study Areas” where little to no “study” really gets done. In reality, such areas are created as land management tools to keep certain high maintenance user groups out — without the need for the Congressional law making and politics that creating legal Wilderness requires.
Now Colorado ski areas are joining the fun. According to the Summit Daily, Keystone ski area has designated some of their adjacent public land as a closed “Wildlife Study Area,” even though little to no “study” is presently being done there — nor is any planned. The excuse is that Lynx pass through the area. Problem is, the official Forest Plan has no category of land management that goes by the name “Wildlife Study Area.” The term is simply a convenient construct of the ski resort so they can use Lynx as an excuse to close public land to recreation, and place a feel-good note on their trail map.
Reality check: Keystone doesn’t like skiers who backcountry ski but depend on the resort ski patrol for rescue. By closing the “Wildlife Study Area” to backcountry skiers, they eliminate a management problem. They’re playing the Lynx card for their own gain and it’s blatantly obvious. But this game could involve turnabout.
Follow the logic:
Keystone is aiming the Lynx gun at their own paws. From my own experience watching Colorado wildlife, I’m certain that if biologists looked they’d find Lynx food (rabbits) within the ski area boundary, and no doubt the Lynx venture there as well for meals (if not using much of the resort lands the same way they use adjacent areas). By the resort’s logic, they should then declare their own ski slopes to be a “Wildlife Study Area” and close their business.
As consolation, perhaps Keystone’s owners and managers can go back to college, get degrees in conservation biology, then help other ski resorts around the state shut down. Problem with that scenario is that the closed resorts would all become Wildlife Study Areas and we couldn’t backcountry ski there either!
Oh well, so much for that plan.
(Lynx note: The animal’s activity is almost entirely nocturnal, they go where food is, and rabbits are it. If a ski resort is adjacent to a declared Lynx habitat and rabbits live there, simply dangling a rope between two trees isn’t going to keep the cat out of the ski area any more than it keeps a skier out of the backcountry.)