Do trails harm wildlife?

Hikers follow a trail near Handies Peak in Colorado. ©BLM

For many of us, hiking trails are an important way for us to get into nature and interact with wildlife. But are those trails negatively affecting the wildlife we set out to see? “One person walking quietly for a couple of miles on a trail doesn’t seem like it would be very impactful, so people have a hard time believing that they’re actually affecting wildlife,” TWS member Courtney Larson tells the Denver-based magazine 5280. “But it’s cumulative. It’s the effect of hundreds or thousands of people.” A PhD student in ecology at Colorado State University, Larson examined the research for a literature review published in PLOS ONE. “In 93 percent of those papers, recreation had at least one effect on wildlife, and many of those effects (59 percent) were negative,” 5280 writes.

Recreationists can be a problem, CSU Professor Emeritus Rick Knight says, but proper management can reduce their impacts. “There are so many ways we can manage for coexistence,” he tells the magazine. “But the first step — and this is the hardest step — is to believe that we can over-recreate, just like we can over-log and over-dam our rivers.”

Read more in 5280 here.