LETTER: Proposed ACA Gravel Pit impact on Wildlife

Chaffee County Planning Committee and County Commissioners:

This letter addresses animals sighted in the last 2 years by residents within a 1-2 mile radius of the proposed ACA/Holman gravel pit that were not reported in the cursory September 9, 2016 Mining Pit Wildlife Impact report/letter supplied to the County by Colorado Parks Wildlife.

Moose  birth  witnessed June 2016 – BLM land 1/4 – 1/3 mile west of Eureka Ranch, adjacent to Weldon Creek and 1 ½  mile from proposed pit.  Multiple moose tracks/scat in same area since then.

Bear with 2 infant cubs sighted June 2016 – BLM land 1/4 – 1/3 mile west of Eureka Ranch, adjacent to Weldon Creek and 1 ½  mile from proposed pit.

Antelope, badger, porcupine, otter, muskrat, bats, trout – Eureka Ranch and BLM land

Birds – Red tail hawk, Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle, Great Horned Owl. Various woodpeckers, hummingbirds, finch, geese, ducks, and other birds

The September 9 letter stated the gravel pit site was inspected but it made no mention of adjacent ranches, residential areas, and BLM lands which are all teeming with wildlife and contain forests, willow brush, marshes, springs, and a dozen year round ponds. No one living in the immediate area of the proposed pit has been approached by CPW personnel to do wildlife inspections. The September 9 letter concluded, “CPW does not foresee significant impacts to wildlife or wildlife habitat.”  Based on the CPW letter, the county issued a “Statement of No Impact.”

The CPW letter stated, “Elk and deer populations will winter in area.”  The deer and elk populations breed and live in the area year round as everyone living in the area knows.  Also, the letter failed to mention that the elk herd is one of the largest in the county numbering as high as 250. As noted above, the area is also birthing grounds and habitat for moose and bear.

The mining application requested a 12 hour per weekday operation for approximately 25 years.  In an inexplicable two page noise report submitted by ACA to and accepted by the Planning Commission, decibel readings from violins, oboes, and chamber music were listed along with car and train whistle noise. The heavy machinery to be used in the mining operations was not even listed. Without this information, how can the CPW possibly state that 25 years of 12 hour per weekday noise from stone crushing, heavy excavation, and 50 foot semi-trucks will not have “significant impact” and not permanently drive out  the wildlife?  Moose, deer, elk, coyote, and bear have highly developed hearing.  Also, the ACA report on dust pollution was vague at best. How can the CPW know that the decrease in air quality will not also “impact” the area wildlife?

Most importantly, a map entitled Planning Influences with Potential Wildlife Impact was completed by Clarion Associates for the Chaffee County 2000 Comprehensive Plan.   The map annotates potential growth planning areas with rankings for wildlife impact:  Low, Moderate Low, Moderate, High, and Very High.  Along with the Brown’s Canyon National Monument and several corridors along the Arkansas River basin, areas adjacent to and surrounding the Holman ranch were among the very few in the entire county  given the highest possible ranking: “Very High.”  (The map’s findings contradict statements given by pit proponents at recent Planning Commission meetings).

As a result of the map’s ranking, the County advocated large “conservation” lots in wildlife sensitive areas in its 2000 Comprehensive Plan.  The Eureka Ranch, Weldon Creek, and Hayden Springs developments next to the Holman ranch were painstakingly planned accordingly:  10-50 acre “conservation” lots; minimal fencing; heavy restrictions on building in grassland/prairie areas; no hunting.  Weldon Creek designated a 1000 acre conservation district in its developmentthe largest conservation district of any residential development in the county.

Years of significant conservation efforts by developers and residents in proximity to the Holman ranch have had minimal impact to the land and wildlife has flourished.  These residential areas and conservation tracks should be considered national models.  Why would the County ignore its own Comprehensive Plan, accept lacking reports, and allow this 27.76 acre open pit mine to operate next to conservation lands flourishing with wildlife?

Wendy W. Gorie

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