The newsletter of AMERICAN TRAILS -- SPRING 1999

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Planning Trails with Wildlife in Mind: a Handbook for Trail Planners

Typically, the impacts to wildlife from trails aren't as great as those from intensive development. More and more often, however, we realize that--no matter how carefully we tread and no matter how much we desire to "leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but pictures"-- building trails can affect wildlife. Planning Trails with Wildlife in Mind: a Handbook for Trail Planners will help trail planners balance the benefits of creating trails with being stewards of nature, especially wildlife.

The Properly designed trails can minimize the negative impacts on the environment by giving people a path to nature with suitable habitat protection. Planning Trails with Wildlife in Mind: A Handbook For Trail Planners is a new tool for trail builders to gain insight into balancing the construction of trails with wildlife needs.

"This handbook clearly demonstrates to its readers how trails can make positive contributions to conserving nature," said Stuart Macdonald, coordinator of the Colorado's State Trails Program." Trail projects can help restore degraded stream corridors and also guide outdoor enthusiasts away from sensitive wildlife habitats into more adaptable areas."

With an increase in the demand for all kinds of trails, the concern for wildlife and their habitats prompted Colorado State Parks to convene a statewide Trails and Wildlife Task Force. Composed of environmental groups and local, state and federal land stewards, the Task Force identified many wildlife-related concerns with building trails.

Through vigorous debate about the conservation issues and approaches to building a variety of trails, the task force came to a consensus for developing this publication.While there is not a lot of research specifically on the impacts of trail recreation, hundreds of research papers were also consulted.

The 51-page Handbook For Trail Planners, written and designed by Hellmund Associates, helps planners identify how trail designs can potentially impact wildlife, as well as how trails can help preserve wildlife and their delicate ecosystems. The handbook also includes a practical checklist for trail planning, case studies of trail planning and management approaches, and other information sources on trails and their environmental impacts.

The checklist provides a broad framework for considering wildlife while planning trails. It also highlights important issues to consider at specific points in the planning process.

Every trail project is unique, and not all of the detailed steps and questions in the checklist will be relevant to each project. Therefore it is important to adapt the checklist to your own situation.

For example, in an urban setting it may not be possible to identify a range of options for a trail. The only possible alignments may be along drainageways or other existing corridors not attractive to most kinds of development. Similarly, many trail projects improve existing routes, rather than create new alignments. Looking for other alternatives may not make sense in such cases.

For more information, see the Wildlife and Trails section.

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