Vail Daily letter: Hidden agenda
Vail, CO Colorado
I would like to express my opinion and opposition to the Hidden Gems wilderness campaign. We have heard a lot about this campaign lately because the Hidden Gems group submitted its proposal to Rep. Jared Polis in hopes that he would take its wishes to set aside more land for wilderness to D.C. and put it into law.
The Hidden Gems group is run by a small group of very well-funded people who are able to pay for staff, advertisement, a slick website and sponsorships. They represent the minority, not the majority.
There is no purpose or reason to designate more acres to wilderness. There is approximately 14.4 million acres of national forest in Colorado, of which approximately 3.7 million acres is already designated wilderness. The White River National Forest, which the Eagle Valley is part of, is 2.3 million acres. Currently 33 percent of this, or approximately 759,000 acres, is already designated wilderness.
The Hidden Gems group would like to add another 308,000 acres to wilderness for a total of 46 percent of the White River National Forest. In a recent study of the White River National Forest, of all the people who ventured into the forest, only 2.3 percent of those people ventured into a designated wilderness area.
Is there a compelling reason to add more land for this tiny minority of people to use? National forest is already protected land and started back in the early 1900s to set aside land for the people of the United States to enjoy as public open space and use for recreation. The National Forest Service was formed in 1905 to protect and manage all these lands and has the expertise to do its job very well.
It is usually the organization that decides the areas that will become wilderness because it understands the best areas for that use. Why would we allow a small, aggressive group to tell the Forest Service, which has 105 years of expertise, how to run its business?
The Hidden Gems group was formed several years ago. It doesn’t have the knowledge or experience that we need to tell us what land should be designated wilderness. Most of its members have probably never set foot in wilderness areas. They are just adding more work to the Forest Service’s job every day without being able to hire more help.
Most of the articles that I have read that are in favor of the Hidden Gems proposal want to keep our national forest areas pristine for our future generations and make sure that we live in harmony with nature and the animals that inhabit the forests. This is the vision and job of the Forest Service and the hope for all people who live and visit here, so in that regard I agree with the one thought of this group.
Most all of the people who have written letters to the newspaper don’t really understand how much wilderness we already have. Unless these people have not walked outside their homes, the animal life in our national forests and in our neighborhoods is flourishing.
The elk population is at an all-time high, and in my community I see elk, deer, bears, coyotes, foxes, mountain lions and lynx. The elk population is so high in our development that they are ruining their own habitat and there are controlled hunts to thin out the herds and make their habitat healthier for them.
I enjoy getting back into our national forests via mountain bike, snowmobile and Jeep. The people I encounter in the forest and recreational groups that I am a part of respect our forests and the privilege to use them and are great stewards of our land.
Designating more wilderness area is not going to accomplish anything. There is plenty of public land for everyone to use. If you want to be secluded and have the time to hike into the wilderness, do that. If you want to ride your motorized vehicle and access nature more quickly, then do that.
It is now time for the majority of our community to get organized against this land grab that will not benefit anyone in our community. I would encourage everyone in our community to study the maps and the reason behind the Hidden Gems wilderness campaign. Should our national forests be used as a political tool? I would hope not! Please voice your opinion against this movement.
Dean Johnson, Edwards