By Ray Bridge
During the long battle to establish funding and management of open space and natural areas in the City of Boulder and Boulder County, most local citizens developed an understanding of the principles of ecosystem preservation, including the need for careful conservation of wild land resources.
A simple way of summarizing that conservation ethic is the precautionary principle: the belief that open space lands should be managed first to preserve natural ecosystems and the phenomenal plant and animal communities that inhabit them. Scientific study of these systems and possible adverse impact on the resources should guide all management decisions. This is a common sense and ethical approach to open space management.
Unfortunately, during the last few years, many of Boulder’s residents have moved here from other areas, or perhaps forgotten earlier battles, and the healthy condition of city open space lands has come to be taken for granted. Few Boulder residents are aware that the current increasingly healthy state of nesting raptors is the result of closures during nesting season that were developed initially by BCNA and then adopted by OSMP and Boulder County Parks and Open Space.
In the 1970s pressure from climbers and hikers forced many eagles and falcons to abandon nest sites they occupy today. Mountain lions were rarely seen along our mountain front at that time. Few Boulder residents today realize that the current, mostly healthy, ecosystems are the result of good management and will rapidly degrade or disappear altogether without it, particularly in the face of recreational pressure from an expanding population in the Denver metropolitan area. In addition to a citizenry that loves its open space but takes it for granted, the past few years have seen the emergence of a politically active lobby for recreational interests that takes the position that environmental preservation has received far too much emphasis and that recreational use has been unreasonably restricted. People taking this position generally consider themselves environmentalists, but they are impatient with any restrictions on their use of public lands, and they are openly hostile to the precautionary principle or to pleas for adequate scientific study of recreational impact on plant or animal communities before the building of new trails.