Friday, December 5, 2008

Bikes versus Wildlife

In case you thought environmentalists had a singular agenda, here's the latest from Seattle.

The municipality and bike advocacy groups want to widen an existing section of multi-use trail, in part to minimize conflict between cyclists and other users. This involves filling and paving the wetlands beside the trail and removing as many as 60 trees. Ecologists are concerned about the loss of wetland habitat for amphibian populations and migratory birds, and the removal of the larger trees.

Both sides claim the mantle of Environmental Steward and cite evidence of their righteousness. They finally get to the crux of the debate towards the end of the article:
"It's a seemingly unremarkable wetland," Paquin said as she walked the trail in the rain recently, "but there are amphibians living in there. ... No one is looking out for these critters. You could ride the trail for years and never know there were salamanders there."
Our urban parks and green spaces have the opportunity to serve multiple functions: alternative transportation, urban outdoor recreation, wildlife habitat, and ecosystem services such as stormwater management. Transportational cyclists will benefit from a healthy wetland brightening their morning commute, and wildlife advocates ultimately gain when more people are exposed to local wildlife. Promoters of urban wilderness need to remain attentive to the goals of their allies, and work towards collaborative solutions.

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