Wilderness Workshop has long been engaged in a battle to protect critical winter wildlife habitat in the Eagle Valley from a damaging road across public lands sought by developers of the Berlaimont Estates subdivision near Edwards. The road would access a 680-acre, private inholding deep inside the forest. The developer wants to build 19 new mansions in a rural, fire-prone area, putting expensive property and people at risk due to increased fire activity from climate change.
Our work has informed and activated the public and elected officials. More than 4,000 citizens signed a petition in opposition to the road. During the public comment period for the draft environmental impact statement, 95% of comments—submitted by more than 700 citizens—opposed the project. Letters of concern and opposition were also filed by Governor Polis, elected officials at the state and national levels, and the Eagle County Commissioners.
So much opposition helped the U.S. Forest Service see how damaging the developer’s proposal would be to wildlife and our public lands. The agency recently released a decision that avoids some critical habitat and doesn’t follow the developer’s requested alignment. We’re still in the fight for a better outcome, though.
Even the less damaging alternative still stretches across several miles of national forest in the heart of some of Eagle County’s best remaining winter range. It would destroy and degrade habitat for iconic herds of deer and elk, which are already in dramatic decline because of habitat fragmentation. It would also threaten Greenback cutthroat trout, and habitat for greater sage-grouse, lynx, Brewer’s sparrow and Harrington penstemon.
We’ve made progress in our fight to protect this important habitat, but we haven’t yet won. Formal objections have been filed, including ours and more than 30 more. These objections asked the Forest Service to deny the road or start the process anew. It is possible the agency will do that. The agency’s analysis was deeply flawed. Even if the agency presses forward, though, we’ll continue working to protect this habitat before Eagle County and, possibly, in federal court. Our goal is to stop this damaging and unreasonable project before the bulldozers pave this critical winter range.