Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado
Birds nesting in the Cucumber Gulch wetlands area do tend to avoid the
BreckConnect Gondola when it is moving, but it does not seem to be driving them
out of the area, a recent town-commissioned study has concluded.
study, the second in three years on the impact of gondola operations on local
avian species, was funded in part by Breckenridge Ski Resort.
executives prompted the second study when they asked the Breckenridge Town
Council to consider again extending summer gondola operations through the
protected open space area, recognized as one of national importance.
“Based on the available information, we don't believe it is necessary to
revise our request in regard to gondola summer operations,” Breckenridge Ski
Resort spokeswoman Kristen Petitt Stewart stated in an email to the
Resort representatives are looking to begin running the gondola
between downtown Breck and the base of Peak 8 in mid-June this year rather than
A 2010 study evaluated the impact of summer gondola
operations on bird species in the Cucumber Gulch area. In 2012 the study was
repeated to determine the effects on local avian species of running the gondola
two weeks earlier in the year.
“The question at hand is, does starting
the gondola earlier in the season — in June versus July — impact the avian
species in the gulch more so because that's their nesting time and their
migration time,” Breckenridge open space and trails planner Scott Reid said. “I
don't think the results were enough to say two weeks earlier in the gondola
operations is going to make a huge difference to these species.”
Researchers did find, however, that one species of bird, the
violet-green swallow, was attempting to nest in cavities on the underside of the
gondola cabins, which then later began to move.
The situation poses a
problem as migratory birds are protected under international treaty,
Breckenridge staffers said.
But ski area representatives deny the
“We have looked at this very closely, and have not been
able to find any evidence that nesting activity is occurring,” Petitt Stewart
stated in an email. “We inspected the cabins very carefully during the summer
and clean them regularly as part of our ongoing maintenance program and have
never found any evidence of nesting.”
Breckenridge officials and resort
representatives are expected to discuss the issue at tonight's work session.
The study also found that the late-arriving Cordilleran flycatchers
seemed to choose nesting sites away from the gondola corridor. In addition, it
showed that the number of Wilson's warblers in the corridor dropped
significantly when the gondola began moving, a finding that was consistent with
the 2010 study but did not seem to indicate that the birds vacated Cucumber
Gulch wetlands area altogether.
Researchers encouraged officials to
limit gondola operations in the morning and evening when many species are
feeding and nesting.
Cucumber Gulch has been identified as a crucial
aquatic resource and wildlife habitat. Breckenridge officials purchased much of
the gulch with open space funds to protect it from development.
BreckConnect Gondola began operations in 2006, and started to run in the summer
in 2010. Last summer, the gondola geared up in mid-June and the second study was
commissioned to determine the impacts of the earlier start date.
cost of the $14,000 study was split evenly between the town and ski resort.
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News