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April 22, 2011
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Polis reintroducing wilderness bill

DENVER - The proposal that has evolved from the Hidden Gems campaign will come out of hibernation today, but in a most curious place.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat, will be in Denver on the steps of the Colorado Capitol building to advocate more wilderness in Eagle and Summit counties.

Polis will be joined on the Capitol steps in Denver by Denver native Aron Ralston, also recently of Hollywood and the movie "127 Hours;" Denver-based photographer John Fielder; Denver activist Elise Jones with the Colorado Environmental Coalition; and a Boulder outerwear retailer.

They'll all be on hand as Polis announces plans to reintroduce the Eagle and Summit County Wilderness Preservation Act.

Polis will also be joined today by Vail native Kerry Donovan, who his staff lists as a "rancher." Donovan grew up in Vail, part of Vail's pioneering Donovan clan, and currently serves on the Vail Town Council.

Polis' entourage does not include Jack Albright, vice president of the all-volunteer White River Forest Alliance.

"Our position has not changed. It's still the same bill," Albright said. "There were some areas that needed to be addressed before and they need to be addressed now. We're hopeful that we'll have that opportunity if the bill is read in committee, that is if it gets read at all."

Polis submitted the bill last year before the election, but it died when the last session of congress concluded.

"When one congress expires you have to reintroduce the legislation," said Christopher Fitzgerald, Polis's communications director.

In the bill, Polis will propose designating 166,000 acres of public land in Eagle and Summit Counties as wilderness and special protection areas.

It's all based on the long and contentious Hidden Gems wilderness debate. That upheaval sparked more emails to the Eagle County commissioners than anything they've ever dealt with, the commissioners said.

Wilderness designations ban motorized and mechanized uses.

Polis held several public meetings about Hidden Gems, and says he went through the "trail by trail" before drafting his bill.

Staff Writer Lauren Glendenning contributed to this report.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Apr 27, 2011 12:13PM Published Apr 22, 2011 11:34AM Copyright 2011 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.