Vail Daily letter: Can’t support Hidden Gems |

Vail Daily letter: Can’t support Hidden Gems

Chris Hynes
Vail, CO, Colorado

After reading Susie Kincade’s Valley Voices concerning the Hidden Gems, I took her up on her offer to learn more about the issue at the Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign Web site. After reading the section called “About ‘alternative destinations,'” I realized I could not support Hidden Gems. This section basically made the point that alternative designations do not rest on enabling legislation and open the land-use decision door to all comers, to many types of stakeholders, while wilderness designation requires an act of Congress to undo.

And that is my concern. If we cede control to Congress, to whom are we actually ceding that control? The House of Representatives is increasingly dominated by urban voters whose idea of wilderness might be one notch above or below Bambi. Overturning a wilderness designation in the Senate could be subject to a filibuster requiring 60 votes to stop. So I have little faith that there would be any flexibility in future use following a wilderness designation.

Kincade calls Hidden Gems a “gift to future generations.” But I prefer to let my child’s generation make its own decision, and I believe a stakeholder process will give it a better chance of doing so.

I think about decisions earlier generations might have made that could prevent us from making our own decisions today. For example, suppose a hundred years ago people decided that all that pristine land surrounding our major cities should be protected. Based on the primitive state of the automobile, people might not have imagined that these areas would, a generation later, become the suburbs which transformed American life. Perhaps 75 years ago, people might have decided that certain other exurban land needed protection. And after World War II, the returning soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division might have had no place close to major population centers to start the transformational ski industry.

These lands being considered for wilderness designation are lands that belong to all Americans. Before we restrict their use, and effectively take away the discretion of future generations to decide for themselves how they are to be used, we should ask ourselves whether we have a perfect crystal ball or the arrogance of thinking that we know best forever.

Chris Hynes


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