Taking Flight for Conservation: Aerial Tour Showcases East Vail Pass Wildlife Crossings Progress

Aerial view of East Vail Pass Crossing

Notable Guests and Stunning Views Highlight the Importance of Reconnecting Habitats

Summit County Safe Passges took to the skies this August to showcase the progress of the East Vail Pass Wildlife Crossings project!

We were fortunate to host a notable group including Senator Dylan Roberts, Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry, Mayor Kim Langmaid, and representatives from various organizations like Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). They were joined by a reporter from The Colorado Sun, and staff from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) for an exciting 50-minute aerial tour over the East Vail Pass Wildlife Crossings project. The flight, operated by EcoFlight, took off from Eagle County Regional Airport in Gypsum.

The journey began by flying north, showcasing the successful Highway 9 crossing project that has significantly reduced wildlife vehicle collisions and aided numerous mule deer crossings. Then, the flight route shifted towards East Vail Pass, revealing the landscape and highlighting the need for wildlife crossings to connect habitats split by the busy I-70 highway. Three new crossings and fencing have been planned to ensure safe wildlife movement. This flight underscored the importance of reconnecting habitats amid urban development and served as an eye-opening experience for the participants.

“The EcoFlight tour of the East Vail Pass wildlife crossing location was a major eye-opener,” said SCSP advisory council member and wildlife biologist for the Dillon Ranger District of the White River National Forest, Lindsay Martinez.

“I have researched animal movement throughout my career, but seeing the landscape from above gave a better perspective on how each peak and valley is connected. Areas that seem distant by road are much closer than I thought. The flight also showed how development is preventing important connectivity of those peaks and valleys for wildlife movement.”

Upon landing, the attendees were treated to refreshments including coffee and delectable Amish pastries sourced from the San Luis Valley, and engaged with SCSP board and advisory members to delve deeper into the East Vail Pass wildlife crossings project. Sharing their insights, participants marveled at the scale of the landscape connectivity efforts, with one likening the Highway 9 wildlife crossings to delicate “dental floss strands from the air,” emphasizing the necessity of multiple crossings and proper fencing. The event provided a fresh perspective and fostered stronger collaboration among stakeholders. As the project advances, these key participants are expected to remain involved in innovative ways to support the initiative.

You can stay engaged with the progress of the East Vail Pass project by following us on social media and/or by donating to SCSP. The support and encouragement from our community is always appreciated!

View the Photo Gallery Below for More Photos from EcoFlight!

Your Help is Needed

Whether you’re experiencing Summit County as a local or a visitor, it’s important to understand the places we go and how we impact them. With that knowledge we can take action to do our part as individuals by advocating for the organizations and initiatives that protect the natural landscapes and wildlife that draw us here in the first place.