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November 20, 2009
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Vail Daily Editor Don Rogers: That's not just an engine whining

If the Hidden Gems wilderness proposal is fully imposed, snowmobiles and motorcycles and mountain bikes will hardly be "locked" out of the national forest.

They'd still have a million acres of where they actually go available. A million acres. That's a lot of room to ramble.

They've got to have the 400,000 acres they don't use so much now or wouldn't be able to use anyway, too?

The majority of forest users who prefer foot travel can't have part of the forest free of the noise and such that comes with these vehicles? Truly wild country, where the wildlife and forest come first and human incursion second, really must bow to users who already have a million acres in the White River National Forest alone at their disposal?

Really?

These folks just have to have all the forest below the peaks to play in, apparently. Anything less is "locking" them out, worthy of temper tantrums at public gatherings, mocking "tree huggers" and so on. The end times for the American way.

Those 400,000 acres probably can be adjusted a bit more in collaboration with the power and mountain-bike groups where they may conflict with popular areas that the Forest Service doesn't already plan to close as part of the roadless plan.

For now, though, these groups don't see any real reason to do that. Why bother if you can kill the whole proposal and not worry overly much about that grand concept of "sharing"?

No politicians are exactly tripping over themselves to support the Hidden Gems initiative. Officials for the National Guard high-altitude helicopter training have expressed opposition even though they will be able to conduct their training as before, taking precedence over the wilderness designation. Forest Service officials are trying to be polite while pooh-poohing the very idea from an outside coalition of citizens' groups.

By the way, you can hunt and fish in wilderness areas, firefighters can operate as they need to when fires burn there, and search and rescue is not restricted.

The Hidden Gems representatives seem to be open to tailoring their proposal to better accommodate popular areas for the motorized and mountain-bike users. Of course, it's easy to see why advocacy groups might figure stamping their feet is the best way to get what they want. The initiative clearly has an uphill battle.

This should, logically, be a straightforward process largely free of controversy. There's room for wilderness below treeline without really compromising the folks who need their equipment to enjoy their forest experience.

Too bad the folks with plenty of room for roaring are also compelled to whine.

Don Rogers is the editor and publisher of the Vail Daily. He can be reached at drogers@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2920. He welcomes your comments at www.vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Nov 23, 2009 08:17PM Published Nov 20, 2009 07:39PM Copyright 2009 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.