Vail Daily letter: Other ways to protect public lands than wilderness |

Vail Daily letter: Other ways to protect public lands than wilderness

John Bailey
Vail, CO, Colorado

Friday’s article on Lower Piney stated, “snowmobilers see it as a playground and Gems backers see it as wildlife habitat that needs protection.”

Why not do both?

We are fortunate there is a solution to many of the Hidden Gems proposal’s issues. Wilderness is not the only act of Congress to protect our lands. There are other acts of Congress that protect the wildlife and restrict mining plus gas exploration.

The James Peak Protection Area was successfully created adjacent to the James Peak Wilderness area.

The areas in the James Peak Protection Area are very similar to Lower Pine and Congress stated this regarding the James Peak Protection Area: The lands covered by this section include important resources and values, including wildlife habitat, clean water, open space, and opportunities for solitude. These lands also include areas that are suitable for recreational uses, including use of snowmobiles in times of adequate snow cover as well as use of other motorized and non-motorized mechanical devices. These lands should be managed in a way that affords permanent protection to their resources and values while permitting continued recreational uses in appropriate locales and subject to appropriate regulations.

In March of 2009, the largest expansion to the nation’s wilderness system in 25 years was signed into law. Included in this historic legislation was the designation of the 210,000-acre Dominguez Escalante National Conservation Area, including the 66,000-acre enclosed Dominguez Canyons Wilderness.

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Since the management plan was put in place recreational users are able to enter the conservation area and engage in activities from off-road vehicle use to hiking, from mountain biking to horseback riding.

There is something for everyone. Within the middle of this conservation area lies the 66,000-acre Dominguez Canyons Wilderness Area, providing a wild sanctuary for horseback riders, hikers, hunters, rafters, bird-watchers, botanists, geologists, archeologists, and of course for the abundant plant and animal life who reside here.

There are methods to protect our lands by an act of Congress other than wilderness and these companion designated areas protect the wildlife while prohibiting mining plus gas exploration.

It is time to give up on the misconception that wilderness designation is the only way to protect our lands.

I understand the groups behind the Hidden Gems proposal, Wilderness Workshop and Wilderness Society, are solely interested in wilderness designation instead of purely protecting the lands in the best method possible.

I truly hope the short-sightedness of the Hidden Gems presenters will not limit the efforts of those who truly want to protect our lands in the most effective method possible.

I am convinced there can be an inclusive Hidden Gems land protection bill that will have some wilderness, plus some companion designation areas.

John Bailey