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Elm Island road decision could affect bird population
A decision to reject a locked gate at Elm Island Road west of Highway 281, could lead to unforeseen problems, not just for owners of the property but also birds.
That's according to wildlife officials who say without the closure, the migratory bird population is at risk.
For Crane Trust and land owners they say having a gate would prevent vandalism and trespassing. These are common problems each has fought for many years. But now with no protection they fear repeated abuse of the property.
Down the dead end and gravel path, known as Elm Island Road, west of Highway 281, is home to wildlife species.
"It's protected as habitat that is used by migratory birds notably the endangered whopping crane and also thousands of sand hill cranes and other migratory birds," said Crane Trust Director of Science Mary Harner.
Of which there are only 300 to 500 left.
The Platte River Whooping Crane Trust owns most of Mormon Island West of 281, about 2200 acres of land. The land is crucial to the bird's survival.
"It's a proactive measure we know that sensitive wildlife relies on this area it's a very unique habitat within the Platte River Valley," Harner said.
Tuesday, the Hall County Board of Supervisors voted 6-1 to keep Elm Island Road open to the public.
Trevor Johnson also owns a portion of the property.
"We've had constant littering and we're always picking up trash, we had our gate broken into a couple times and there have been cars and trucks that have been out in the pasture just running around and tearing up the grounds," said Johnson.
Public Works Director Casey Sherlock says closure would create problems to re-open the gate if needed.
"Development regulations in Hall County require your property to be touching an open public road if you do not, then the zoning department will not allow you to build on that property," said Public Works Director Casey Sherlock.
That's a move that could leave the county liable for possible damages.
Supervisor and Public Works Committee Chair Steve Shcuppan, is opposed to the closure.
"I don't think it's the job of the county to make it, make a situation for somebody else that road has been there for a hundred years and I don't see any reason to close it," Shcuppan said.
"It is the largest tract of what we consider to be the native wet Meadow habitat and we want to do our utmost to protect it so many species use it," Harner said.
County Board Chairwoman Pamela Lancaster was the only member who supported a locked gate at the entrance of the road.
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