Wildlife conservation experts including The Nature Conservancy, the Audubon Society and Trout Unlimited have strongly and specifically opposed the quarry at the proposed site because of the irreparable damage it will do to a rare and invaluable ecosystem.
These organizations have verified that the quarry will irreparably harm the area, which is one of the last high-quality examples of the southern Front Range foothills ecosystems. The area surrounding and including the proposed quarry includes Little Turkey Creek, which is a critical connection corridor in a 400-square-mile conservation landscape. Transit Mix’s proposed 100-foot buffer along the creek is grossly insufficient to protect the area’s functioning wildlife corridor that joins the mountains to the west to the plains and grasslands to the east. Additional ecosystem rarities that would be destroyed by the quarry are:
- Mapped by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as critical habitat for the Mexican Spotted Owl, a federal and state listed threatened species
- Well-developed pinion and juniper woodlands, which are home to over 600 species of plants and 100 species of birds
- Identified by the Colorado Natural Heritage Foundation as a “B2 site-a site of very high conservation significance”
- Designated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as a “major wildlife migration corridor”
- Recognized in the El Paso County Parks Master Plan, which identifies the Little Turkey Creek area as having the highest environmental values and thus a priority for protection and open space designation
- Recognized by El Paso County in its Southwestern/Highway 115 Comprehensive Plan: “The specific area of Aiken’s Canyon is identified is a unique and significant biological resource of state-wide significance that should continue to be preserved.”
The Nature Conservancy’s letter opposing the quarry states, “Little Turkey Creek serves as an important stream corridor for the migration and movement area for a wide range of animal species such as mountain lions, black bear, mule deer, and elk. The mining plan does not provide an adequate buffer to protect the use of intermittent stream corridors by these sensitive species. And, over 100 species of birds have been documented on the adjacent land. The mine activity impacts such as dust, noise and contamination of the creek will directly impact the wildlife and plant communities as they are all interconnected. This location provides a high-quality foothills plant community that (is) disappearing. “
The Trout Unlimited letter opposing the quarry states, “The application fails to mention that trout or any other forms of aquatic wildlife exist and offers no protection for the cold waters of Little Turkey Creek. The application fails to adequately address the surface water and its quality. When it does discuss ground water, the proposed solution for the ground water entering the mine area is to simply dump it back into the stream. No consideration is provided for the water quality, changes in PH, temperature, chemistry or sediment.“
Finally, the Audubon Society identifies the threat to riparian habitat: “Mining runoff into Little Turkey Creek could create serious issues for wildlife as riparian areas continue to decline in the west. According to Robert H. Wayland III of the EPA, ‘riparian areas comprise less than one percent of the land area of most western States, yet up to 80 percent of all wildlife species in this region of the country are dependent upon riparian areas for at least part of their life cycles’”.