Mission: Safe passage for wildlife

Advocate for Western corridor visits critter-friendly De Beque ranch

DE BEQUE — On foot, bike and boat, John Davis has been traveling this year on a journey of the West that has taken him where wildlife goes — and where it can’t go, at least safely.

On Monday, his adventure took him to the sprawling, wildlife-friendly High Lonesome Ranch, where he had the chance to share his vision of a Western wildlife corridor with adults and children alike, and also hear of some of the work being done at the ranch.

Davis is on an eight-month journey from Mexico to Canada, most of it muscle-powered, to “ground-truth,” as he calls it, wildlife migration corridors and see what obstacles stand in the way of better habitat connectivity. His TrekWest campaign, with the support of the Wildlands Network (more at http://www.trekwest.org), promotes the idea of a Western Wildway stretching from the southern to northern borders and beyond. Davis is encouraging the kind of cooperation between conservation, recreation, hunting and fishing and other interests needed to help make it happen. The effort follows on the heels of a similar trek he undertook in the East.

On Monday Davis got to see some of the ranch’s conservation-oriented practices such as sustainable grazing and protection of greater sage-grouse habitat. Davis also visited with Trout Unlimited’s Conservation Youth Campers, who are spending the week at the ranch to learn about things such as water hydrology and stream restoration.

“To have him here, it’s a nice honor. (Habitat connectivity) is something the ranch believes in,” High Lonesome Ranch owner Paul Vahldiek Jr. said Monday.

For Davis, who has worn out three pairs of footwear so far on his journey, one of the most disturbing wildlife obstacles he’s come across was right at the U.S.-Mexican border. Drug traffickers go around the border fence with ease, but it stands as a massive barrier to wildlife, he said.

As for other obstacles, “One of our major messages on TrekWest is roads are barriers to wildlife, too,” Davis said.

He is advocating for culverts, overpasses and other means for animals to safely cross interstates and other roadways, which makes things safer for motorists as well.

He also supports the idea of protecting more lands around places such as Grand Canyon and Canyonlands national parks for the sake of wildlife.

Trout Unlimited camper Daniel Lastine, 12, of Grand Junction, an avid lover of outdoors activities, said to do something like what Davis is undertaking “would be really cool. It would be a lot of fun.”

In terms of promoting habitat protection, “I think it’s really going to help and I hope he has a lot of success with it,” Lastine said.


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