Compromise proposed in wilderness conflict |

Compromise proposed in wilderness conflict

ASPEN, Colorado – Proponents of designating more than 340,000 acres of public land in western Colorado as wilderness say there’s a proposal to readjust boundaries to balance competing interests.

A proposed compromise would remove about 72,000 acres in Pitkin County from the Hidden Gems plan. County commissioners will get a look at the compromise in a work session Tuesday.

The Hidden Gems proposal has been in the works for about a decade. Supporters have asked Democratic Rep. Jared Polis to introduce legislation to designate the federal wilderness in Eagle and Summit counties.

Polis has held public meetings on the proposal and says he is listening carefully to supporters and critics as he tries to find a consensus.

Among opponents to the plan are people who use the areas for recreation. All-terrain vehicles and mountain bikes are among the activities prohibited in wilderness areas.

A compromise that Pitkin County commissioners will review would remove 72,272 acres countywide from the proposed wilderness through 29 different adjustments. The changes were made to accommodate biking, climbing, agriculture, motorized uses, fire protection and other needs.

Another 34 adjustments totaling 80,885 acres have been made in areas adjacent to Pitkin County.

Sloan Shoemaker of Wilderness Workshop, which is coordinating the Hidden Gems campaign, said the idea now is just to update the county commissioners, not ask them to endorse the plan.

“We would like to walk out of there with a good understanding of what their concerns are,” Shoemaker said.

Commissioner Rachel Richards said she has received more e-mails – for and against – on Hidden Gems than she has on anything else in her first term in office. She wants to hear how wilderness advocates have responded to critics’ concerns.

Shoemaker said he believes a disagreement over land on Basalt Mountain, where the ability to fight wildfires is a concern for Basalt firefighters, will be resolved.

“We’re closer and closer to arriving at a consensus on that,” he said. “I’m confident we’re going to resolve that conflict in a mutually acceptable way.”

Information from: The Aspen Times,

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