Vail Daily letter: Elk group against Gems |

Vail Daily letter: Elk group against Gems

Vail Daily
Vail, CO Colorado

My name is Ray Long. I am a fourth-generation Eagle County resident and I am the chapter chairman of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

What I have learned growing up here and being raised around men and women who have carved out a living farming and ranching is that if you do not take care of things, they don’t take care of you.

Protecting a plot of land that has been neglected and not managed properly – like a lot of the proposed areas in the Hidden Gems proposal – does not benefit it or the wildlife that call it home.

The pine beetle infestation is one example. The logging industry in this county was a pillar in the community that supported hundreds of jobs.

Then this valley changed from a farming, ranching and logging community to a vacation-tourism resort community. It took a few years, but the logging industry was forced out of the county. What a coincidence that only a decade after dismantling the logging industry there is now a pine beetle problem.

The thought of making almost 300,000 more acres of poorly managed, unhealthy forest a wilderness we have to watch turn red and die causes great concern for forest fires, wildlife neglect and an assortment of other future problems. I cannot stress enough the effect that neglect plays on our public land. Neglecting our land is more harmful than misused and abused land, but neither should be acceptable.

All of the activities that utilize the use of public land will be affected by this proposal, and not a single one of those activities have been given a fair and level platform to express their thoughts and concerns on this issue. They are going ahead with their plans no matter what. To me, that is just a slap in my face and I do take offense.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is in the business of improving habitat for elk and other wildlife. The foundation and other conservation organizations have restored, enhanced and protected more than 5 million acres of private and public land.

We have even found it necessary to close areas to motorized and mechanized travel. But with the percentage of land in Eagle and Summit counties that is already designated wilderness, I cannot support the Hidden Gems proposal, as it will hinder access to hunting areas, disrupt future management strategies and raise the cost of any habitat projects approved for the benefit of wildlife.

I would like to end with a quote from Theodore Roosevelt: “I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use natural resources of our land. But I do not recognize the right to waste them or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us.”

Let’s not waste another 279,000 acres. Lets improve it, respect it and see how much better we can make it – for us, future generations and for the wildlife we share it with.

Ray Long, Gypsum

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