Gypsum wary about Hidden Gems
Gypsum, CO Colorado
By Derek Franz
GYPSUM, Colorado – Gypsum has concerns about how the Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal would affect the town’s water supply.
The Town Council asked for more time to form an opinion on the proposal at a meeting Tuesday.
The Red Table area is Gypsum’s main concern with the Hidden Gems proposal because it’s the town’s main watershed. Town officials are wary of it being designated as wilderness because it could hinder their ability to manage it with methods such as prescribed burns.
“(White River National Forest Supervisor Scott) Fitzwilliams told me that Red Table Mountain has been a Wilderness Study Area for the last 10 years,” said Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll.
Shroll said that Red Table’s current status as a Wilderness Study Area is “the best of both worlds” because the Forest Service treats the land as a roadless area but there is still flexibility for firefighting and fire mitigation.
“Once it becomes wilderness, though, once the color of the map changes, then our hands are tied,” Shroll said.
Shroll recently met with Fitzwilliams in Glenwood, and Gypsum’s attorney, Bob Cole, recently met with Nissa Erickson, district representative for U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, in Denver.
Cole’s meeting with Erickson in Denver included other water providers who are also concerned with the short timeline they have for addressing issues with the Gems proposal. What came out of the meeting was an agreement between water providers on the Eastern and Western Slopes that they wanted more time to allow them to work together and come up with alternative proposals.
The first draft of the letter that was read to Gypsum Town Council stuck mainly to the request for more time and to remind officials working on Hidden Gems that Gypsum does not currently support a blanket wilderness designation on Red Table Mountain. Shroll said he hoped to have a final draft of the letter signed and sent before Fitzwilliams meets with Polis in the near future. The five council members who were at Tuesday’s meeting expressed approval of the letter.
The Hidden Gems proposal includes 342,000 acres around Colorado that would be set aside as wilderness areas in Pitkin, Eagle, Gunnison and Summit counties. Motorized travel and mechanized travel, such as mountain bikes, are banned in wilderness, as is logging, new mining and gas and oil drilling except where leases exist.