Letter: Wilderness designation is important
March 2, 2019
Valley residents should extend their heartiest thanks to Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Joe Neguse for introducing the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act in Congress. If passed, this legislation would have considerable recreational benefits in our valley while preserving natural resources and historic landscapes. They include valuable additions to the Holy Cross Wilderness and Eagle's Nest Wilderness, as well as historic and other preservation of the landscape in the Camp Hale area. The new Wilderness areas that would be designated by the bill includes lower elevation lands that are valuable for wildlife habitat in the Spraddle Creek area above Vail, which is part of the second-largest mule deer migration corridor in Colorado.
What is great about "Wilderness” designation is that it gives especially sensitive public lands permanent protection from road building, mining, oil and gas development and motorized recreation. That protection becomes permanently written into law, and ensures that the wildlife habitat, water flows, flora and fauna in the protected Wilderness will not be disturbed in the future. Anyone who has hiked the Spraddle Creek area knows how lucky we are to have such a beautiful natural area right at our front door — truly worthy of permanent protection.
Wilderness designation can also protect lands from government decisions that seem ill-advised. For example, if the critical elk and deer winter range above Edwards were eligible for Wilderness designation, the U.S. Forest Service would not be allowed to consider — as it is now doing — the 4.5 miles of paved, all-season road that developer Berlaimont is proposing in the area. While we all certainly hope the Forest Service will protect the public interest by rejecting Berlaimont's application and keeping the area closed to motorized use in the winter, the case illustrates why the type of protection that is afforded by permanent Wilderness designation is so important for our beautiful valley.
Alan S. Danson