It is unfortunate that Nikos Hecht, former hedge fund trader now local developer, was so abusive to our ranger Trevor Washko, telling Trevor (according to newspaper accounts) that Hecht had contributed a million dollars to the trail system, threatening the ranger saying that he would see to it that Trevor would lose his job, then later lying about the whole incident. Such conduct is not only unbecoming, but I’m sure an embarrassment to the Hecht family and friends. At the very least, Nikos should give the ranger a written apology, and at best he could contribute that million dollars he lied about, now to the county open space program. It could certainly use it.
Resources for enforcement and education are limited and the open space program certainly could use such donations. This whole incident speaks to a greater problem: that all the enforcement and education will never be fail-proof. While resources are limited, what the open space board should do is to protect this critical wildlife habit by closing it off, indefinitely, to all mechanized vehicles, bikes, dogs, and hunters.
When I first came to Aspen, in 1967, we had over 280,000 head of elk in this valley. Today we have only 30,000 head. The wildlife managers say they are simply not reproducing as they once did, due to the fact that their habitat has become increasingly more fragmented with trails, roads, development, and encounters with humans. Their stress rates go up radically each time they encounter humans, particularly moving bikes, autos or dogs. Wildlife experts say the adrenal glands go into stress mode, which in turns lowers their reproduction rates; hence the drastic decline over the years.
I personally feel that the entire Droste property, now Sky Mountain, should be permanently off limits to everyone for a few years until the elk and deer populations have a chance to recover. This is what they have had to do in certain islands of the Galapagos where visitors and tourists have loved the island habitat and its fauna to its own destruction.
The Droste property, Sky Mountain, is one of the last remaining wildlife corridors in this valley. The county bought the property to protect it, since we were losing so much to development in Snowmass with SkiCo’s summer biking trail system.
At very least, we should look at longer closures and limit usage of Sky Mountain to hikers, who tread lightly on the environment, disturbing least our dwindling wildlife resource.