“TrekWest: Taking the Wildway Home”
• Free presentation tonight by conservationist-explorer John Davis highlighting the need for wildlife corridors in the West.
• Presentation starts at 6 p.m. at Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, 100 Puppy Smith St.
• Call 970 963-3977 for more information.
When John Davis ambled into the parking lot at Maroon Lake on Friday evening after hiking over from Crested Butte, he was surrounded by backpackers and hikers of all stripes.
It’s a good bet, though, that none of his fellow trekkers were halfway through a 5,000-mile hike.
But Davis was, and today he’s stopping in Aspen to give a talk at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) about the importance of maintaining intact wildlife corridors across the West.
That campaign is the driving force behind his long 10-month walk, bike and float, which started in Sahuaripa, Mexico on Jan. 25 and will end in Fernie, British Columbia on or around Sept. 30.
The trek traces the migration routes of wildlife species that move seasonally across the west, including wolves, cougars, bears and, in Colorado, Canada lynx and wolverines.
Davis was on the trail all day Friday and couldn’t be reached for comment, despite the hapless attempts of two reporters to intercept him above Maroon Lake.
But Kim Vacariu of the Wildlands Network, an environmental group that Davis co-founded and a major trip sponsor, said Davis is highlighting threats to wildlife like highways, housing developments and gas fields along the course of his journey.
“These are the problems that wildlife face in trying to migrate over large landscapes,” Vacariu said. “We need some kind of mechanism to protect wildlife corridors.”
When he leaves Aspen on Sunday morning, Davis will head to the top of Vail Pass, where he’ll give a presentation Monday morning about the need for a wildlife overpass on Interstate Highway 70.
Davis is also drawing attention during his walk to the looming threat of climate change. Many biologists fear that warming temperatures could alter the historic migration patterns of many species by pushing them north over time, out of their usual range.
“Species need to be able to move up, to move north as the climate changes,” said Dave Reed, communications director for the Carbondale-based environmental group Wilderness Workshop, which is sponsoring Davis’ talk at ACES tonight.
Davis is being assisted on his nearly year-long journey by about 22 environmental groups located along the route. They’re loosely affiliated under the umbrella of the Western Wildway Network, an outfit dedicated to advancing the cause of western migration corridors.
So far on the trip, Vacariu said, Davis has forded the Colorado River on a rubber ducky, staved off frostbite in the mountains of Arizona, and nearly panicked while riding a mule along a steep cliff side in Mexico.
“He was traversing the side of a mountain on a mule, and he said that was one of the scariest moment’s he’s ever had while hiking,” Vacariu said. “Although the mule was more sure-footed than he would have been.”