Vail Daily letter: Leave wilderness consideration to the experts |

Vail Daily letter: Leave wilderness consideration to the experts

Ray Long
Vail, CO, Colorado

I attended the recent Battle Mountain Hidden Gems meeting and thought it was a great venue and atmosphere for such a monumental land-use issue affecting our local landscape forever.

I would like to start by saying I am an avid outdoors man and spend anywhere from 100-150 days a year in the backcountry by either horse, four-wheeler, snowmobile, jeep or my own two feet in more than one national forest, one wilderness or one state. I love the outdoors, and no matter how Congress votes on Hidden Gems, it will not keep me from enjoying my public land.

With that said I would like to say that I am totally, 100 percent against designating any of the Hidden Gems proposed areas as wilderness for the basic reason that they are in no size or shape healthy enough to be designated wilderness because of politically motivated management practices and extreme environmental activists that have handcuffed the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Colorado Division of Wildlife with red tape, legislation and lawsuits over scientific management practices that they see are against animals-trees-plants rights, making their job tougher or in some cases impossible.

Land-animal management issues should be based on nothing but pure science and what is best for the entire ecosystem, not politically motivated.

The men and women who established the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Colorado Division of Wildlife did so to have expert advice when it came to such issues. To now have their advice and expertise dismissed due to the fact that the uneducated public can petition politicians to make detrimental decisions to the environment and the public itself is insane.

I believe that all the established wilderness areas we have now are proof enough that we don’t need any more wilderness areas. The health of the forest, vegetation and wildlife in these wilderness areas is no better than any other national forest or BLM.

Case in point: All the public land is in far worse shape than properly managed large sections of private land. Large plots of private land in Eagle County should be the bench mark for the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Colorado Division of Wildlife to strive for on public land. With a proactive approach and educating the public about the need for logging, hunting, trapping, weed management, conservation and predator control, that is not an unattainable goal. But it has to start now.

How can public land take care of the residents in Colorado, and how can the residents take care of the public land? We have a noxious weed problem, a pine beetle problem and some unsound, unsustainable wildlife management practices.

All of these problems stem from politically motivated organizations that span party lines, and everyone is responsible for the shape our state is in.

It’s time to take responsibility for what has been done and correct the problems. I am confident that the employees of the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Division of Wildlife can fix these problems if we, the public, expect nothing but the best-managed landscape and balanced ecosystem after first being educated about the facts and let them do their jobs.

If we agree or disagree, if they have the science to back up their decision, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis as a politician should support it and we the public should respect it.

I would like to also say that everyone has a right to use their public land, no matter which recreational activity they choose.

When Congress can close a large section of land to a certain user group, it just isn’t right.

The problem isn’t a motorized-mechanical problem. It’s a human problem. The lack of education and respect when it comes to our public land – there are good and bad people in every recreational activity, and I have meet my fair share of them both motorized and nonmotorized.

Without educating these bad apples about the consequences of abuse of our public land, the abuse will continue. Just because the abuse is reduced in some areas, it will increase in others, and before long, everywhere will be closed to everyone.

This is the exact opposite of what the government should be trying to do. They should be educating the public and trying to keep as much acreage open to all recreation because people are not going to stop recreating; they are only going to move to an area open to all recreation. The more and more acreage that is closed down, the more and more impact will be seen on areas that are not. It is a giant snowball effect.

We have to teach and hold accountable those who abuse our public land, not everyone who enjoys the same activity as them.

I am a firm believer that as humans we can correct the mistakes we have made in the past, and if anyone can manage so much public land, it is the United States and its citizens. It is everyone’s job to learn from our mistakes and try to predict future ones. With the quality and integrity of our public-land managers at stake, I beg you to consider keeping our federal lands open to management practices and recreational activities for the quality of habitat, future generations and the wildlife that call it home. They all deserve that much.

If Congress designates these areas wilderness, they will remain unhealthy, poorly managed beetle-kill-infested tinderboxes that benefit no one or no thing.

This is not a matter of opinion. This is a fact. If you would like evidence of it, just take a drive around Granby to see what neglecting our national forest can do to a vast landscape in such a short period of time by doing nothing but closing it down to management.

Ray Long

Eagle Valley chapter chairman, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

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