In recent months there has been a healthy discussion involving many parties as to what, if any, portions of the White River National Forest not already designated as wilderness should be considered for addition to the National Wilderness Preservation System.
A great deal of that debate has been covered by the Vail Daily. We recognize that any addition to the National Wilderness Preservation System requires an act of Congress. The Forest Service, as manager of the national forests, along with groups such as the Wilderness Workshop, can recommend additions to wilderness. Only the Congress has the authority, given by the Wilderness Act of 1964, to designate wilderness.
Let me make one thing very clear: The U.S. Forest Service supports and will continue to support the idea that many portions of the national forests, especially the White River National Forest, are wild by nature and should be a part of the national wilderness preservation system. Ultimately, the Congress will decide what is or is not wilderness.
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis and his staff have worked long and hard to develop a consensus proposal that would recognize the wilderness values of certain areas of the White River National Forest while at the same time trying to strike a balance among the wishes of all groups interested in how the White River is managed. We applaud the congressman's efforts to craft this proposal.
The story appearing in the Vail Daily on Thursday indicated that the Forest Service is not a fan of the Polis proposal. That impression is unfortunate.
While we are at a stage where it would be inappropriate for me to comment publicly on the specifics of the congressman's proposal, I support the efforts of Polis to bring to resolution the sometimes divisive debate over what areas should be managed as wilderness. I and my staff have worked closely with Polis in providing background information and details regarding current conditions and management on the parcels included in the congressman's proposal.
White River National Forest