Vail Daily letter: Supports wilderness |

Vail Daily letter: Supports wilderness

Harald "Hemmie" Westbye
Vail, CO, Colorado

As a backcountry enthusiast, I support the Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal in Colorado. The program would add new wilderness to the White River National Forest. Having spent 47 years as a full-time resident in the Vail area, I’ve had the chance to enjoy many trips to our local national forests and wilderness areas. My trips centered on hiking, backpacking, hunting and fishing.

For the past two summers, I’ve worked as a summer volunteer wilderness ranger. I and other rangers have had hundreds of positive comments from hikers we meet. We’ve come in contact with people from all over the U.S. and many other countries. All can’t get over the beauty and quiet in the wilderness. Many guests to our beautiful area have said they wanted to explore more wilderness areas on future trips to Eagle County.

This is proof to me that wilderness serves as a haven from the pressure of our fast-paced industrial society. It’s a place where we can seek relief from the noise and speed of machines, confines of steel and concrete and crowds of people.

Even with more boots in the backcountry, we still occasionally enjoy daily treats.

About six weeks ago, while on a trip to climb Mount Powell, there were 14 mountain goats who followed us into camp.

Less than a week ago, while on ranger patrol, we saw a black bear and a cinnamon cub.

Yes, I know the bears are down in the Vail Valley. Maybe with enlarged wilderness and better citizen trash control, we can keep them in the backcountry.

A couple of years ago, while on a trip into the Holy Cross area, we saw a mountain lion we were sure was over 150 pounds.

Over 10 years ago while biking up Vail pass, we rounded a corner where I came upon a dead female mountain lion we suspect was hit by a car.

We all love seeing a variety of wildlife and know they need a quiet place to live, den and be protected.

By enlarging wilderness, Mother Nature, the greatest of all architects, will continue to invite you, your children and grandchildren to a peaceful place we all need now and then. People need solitude as much as wildlife.

Remember, it’s impossible to build a wilderness but so easy to destroy. Our wildlife also needs contiguous migration routes, especially at mid-elevation.

Support wilderness enlargement now. A public area that’s quiet – that’s a unique treasure. This unique quiet treasure is changing rapidly.

Only a very small portion of the U.S. is designated as wilderness. Let’s set aside more of nature’s gift for future generations to enjoy.

Harald “Hemmie” Westbye

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