Vail Daily letter: Hidden Gems a ruse
Vail, CO Colorado
I moved from Texas to Colorado in order to be closer to all the out-door activities this state has to offer. I have participated in hiking, camp-ing, horseback riding, kayaking, four- by- four, mountain biking, dirt biking, cross- country skiing and snowmobiling. I am an eight- year veteran of the “Colorado 500” char-ity dirt- bike ride, which has donated more than $ 3 million to charities in Colorado in its 33 years of existence. I have served as a director- at- large for the Colorado Off- Highway Vehi-cle Coalition, which, along with the Colorado State Parks, spends $ 3 million a year, monies raised from the off- highway vehicle registration program, for trail maintenance and improvements.
The Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal is a complete ruse. Its sole purpose is to lock out a large seg-ment of users in the name of wilder-ness. The folks at the Wilderness Workshop are using a tool, the Wilderness Act, as a way of locking folks out of their own public lands. These folks are such elitists that they believe only they know what is best for these lands. The Forest Service and the BLM are both in the middle of re- writing their Travel Manage-ment Plans, but this does not go far enough for them. Years ago, a true cross- section of user groups came together and conducted statewide meetings with a committee appointed by the governor to come up with the Roadless Rule. We all sat down in good faith to debate and compromise in order to come up with the rules that would be used to manage our roadless areas. Instead, they have come up with this new concept of using the wilderness des-ignation on areas that do not fit the original intent of the act.
I am impressed with Mesa Coun-ty recognizing that public lands should be preserved for the public, not from the public. They adopted and signed a resolution opposing the Hidden Gems Wilderness Cam-paign. There already exists exten-sive wilderness, inventoried road-less areas, areas of critical environ-mental concern, threatened and endangered species habitat and other designations that prevent development and most activities that a wilderness designation pro-vides. These areas number in the millions of acres. Inventoried road-less areas alone are at least 4.1 mil-lion acres in addition to 3.3 million acres of designated Forest Service wilderness. Total Forest Service land in Colorado is 14.5 million acres, and this number includes grasslands. There are additional wilderness proposals touted by various Colorado wilderness organizations that include millions of additional wilderness acres in the future. When is enough enough?
–Kenneth Upchurch, Snowmass