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Vail Daily letter: Against Gems proposal

Vail Daily
Vail, CO Colorado

The reason for my writing this letter is to express my complete opposition to the Hidden Gems wilderness proposal. Quite simply and quite frankly, I believe that there is no serious threat to these lands. If there were, then recreation-friendly alternatives, such as a national recreation area, would be a better idea than wilderness, as wilderness locks out most recreation.

Our forefathers were wise in setting aside land in the form of national parks, BLM property, national forest and wilderness areas. Unfortunately, there is a continued push to limit more and more access to public lands.

In 1964 when the Wilderness Act was passed, there were 9 million acres of wilderness. Now there are more than 107 million acres under protection. I love the wilderness areas as they are extremely pristine, beautiful, wild country in which you see very few people as access is difficult. Because access is limited in the form of foot or horse traffic, it precludes the use by many if not most of the citizens of this great country.



No more wilderness is needed, but instead we need lands that a wider group of people and recreation types have access to.

There are very clear negative effects to the Hidden Gems wilderness proposal. As discussed above, more wilderness creation continues to limit access to the public. Limited public access should be the least desired action, as public lands are exactly that, public to all.



It is also important to recognize that more wilderness creation puts more pressure on other existing non-wilderness areas. The Hidden Gems wilderness proposal also suggests that these areas are “not where people play now.” That is grossly incorrect, as these areas are accessed by fishermen, hunters, mountain bikers, campers, etc. They have established trails and access points for multiple types of recreational users.

By proposing more wilderness, the negative economic impact could be quite significant. Recreation uses such as mountain biking, snowmobiling, four-wheeling, jeeping, etc., provide huge economic benefits to our state and to our county.

According to an economic study conducted in 2009 by the Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Association, $949,546,896 in gross sales were generated from motorized recreation in Colorado during the 2007-08 season (direct, indirect and induced).



Clearly, the Hidden Gems wilderness proposal would have the effect of closing down the High Altitude Training Center at the airport. I believe the center to be of great importance to the security of our country and also a boon to our county. As the program utilizes these areas and lands in them, it is clear a wilderness designation would prohibit this.

Finally, I have great concern about the health of our forests, especially as it relates to the pine beetle. As we are seeing the pine beetle destroying millions of acres of forest, it would seem to be our responsibility to care for these areas and protect against massive and hugely destructive forest fires. As wilderness areas, the necessary access to clean up and harvest these areas would be denied, thereby leaving us open to forest fires of vast proportions.

Ultimately, I hope that you will see the importance of saying “no” to more wilderness proposals and urge your public representatives to protect these lands for the people, not from the

people.

I would also encourage those who oppose this proposal to attend the meeting today at the Battle Mountain High School Auditorium at 5:30 p.m. to express your opinions to Rep. Jared Polis.

Rachel Overlease-Gerlach


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