This week I visited a proposed wilderness area that is included in US Senator Mark Udall’s Central Mountains Outdoor Heritage Proposal. Udall is considering the introduction of this proposal to Congress after a period of gathering the communities’ response. Areas can only be designated as wilderness through an Act of Congress and this year marks the 50th anniversary of The Wilderness Act.
A coalition of concerned citizens in Summit, Eagle and Pitkin counties have worked tirelessly for years to expand a targeted number of areas they feel need wilderness designation. Many of the areas in Senator Udall’s proposal are there because of these dedicated individuals fighting for wilderness in Central Colorado.
“Spraddle Creek has critical importance as a buffer between urban development in Vail and the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area. The landscape west of the proposal area has seen significant ecosystem modification from road construction and logging, making the intact nature of Spraddle Creek evermore important.
Wildlife uses this area as a mid-elevation movement corridor between high peaks of the Gore Range and the Gore Creek valley. Mule deer and elk are abundant here in the summer and the area is used for elk calving. The ridge along the Area’s eastern boundary is prime habitat for Canada lynx, a state-endangered and nationally-threatened species, as well as home to bighorn sheep and mountain goats.
Spraddle Creek has areas of rolling valleys to very steep slopes and high ridges containing spruce fir, aspen, lodgepole pine and grassland meadows. The area supports abundant wildlife; elk, deer, black bear, mountain lion, bighorn sheep, rocky mountain goat, blue grouse, pine martin, snowshoe hare and lynx. Rocky mountain goats use the area as overall habitat.
The proximity of this area to Vail makes it extremely valuable for recreational uses. It is a popular hunting and horseback riding destination. The Middle Creek and Son of Middle Creek Trails are very popular among mountain bikers, as they are easily accessible from town. The Eiseman Hut sits on a high ridge along the north edge of the proposal area, and provides access to excellent backcountry skiing terrain protected by the proposal. Spraddle Creek provides relatively easy access for quiet-use recreationists, opportunities that are increasingly rare and important as the hustle and bustle in the Vail Valley erodes many nearby quiet opportunities.” (courtesy of whiteriverwild.org).
Stay tuned for more images of Spraddle Creek and a number of other proposed wilderness expansion areas in Central Colorado later this summer in the Earth Island Journal.