Summit Wildfire Council OK with Hidden Gems proposal
summit daily news
Vail, CO Colorado
SUMMIT COUNTY – The Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal would not stand in the way of fire protection in Summit County, according to the Summit Wildfire Council.
Last week, the Wildfire Council – a coalition of government agencies and local fire protection districts – approved a statement saying it had no objections to the proposal to designate 43,000 acres of federal forest land in Summit County as wilderness.
“The Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal, as currently drafted, presents no significant limitations on the community’s ability to reduce the risk of fire, conduct wildfire incident management activities or complete post-fire remediation efforts,” the council concluded.
The council’s move does not amount to an endorsement of Hidden Gems, but rather speaks specifically to the proposal’s lack of interference with fire protection activities.
During the past year, the Hidden Gems campaign has worked with the Wildfire Council to adjust the proposed wilderness boundaries. Fire protection activity, even with mechanized equipment, is allowed in wilderness areas, but it requires additional levels of approval.
“The boundaries were moved away from communities to ensure there is no doubt about protecting people and property,” said Kurt Kunkle of the Colorado Environmental Coalition, one of the conservation groups advocating for the Hidden Gems proposal.
Campaign organizers moved proposed wilderness boundaries anywhere from 600 feet to a half mile from subdivisions, municipal boundaries and other private property, and 200 feet from ranch lands. Some larger adjustments were made to ensure the ability to protect water supplies and vital infrastructure from wildfire.
The Hidden Gems proponents are proposing “companion designation” in some areas flanking existing or proposed wilderness. The designation would allow fire protection activities to proceed as they do now, but would provide for a new layer of protection from activities like oil drilling, for example.
Such companion areas would include lands to the west of the Hoosier Ridge parcel, lands north of the Tenmile parcel and buffer areas adjacent to the Ptarmigan A, Porcupine Gulch, Acorn Creek and Ute Pass parcels.
To view maps of the proposed wilderness areas, visit the Hidden Gems campaign website at http://www.whiteriverwild.org.