Vail Daily’s View: Battle Mountain well-named tonight |

Vail Daily’s View: Battle Mountain well-named tonight

Vail Daily Editorial Board
Vail, CO Colorado

Atop the hot topics of the moment this week is our representative in the U.S. House, Democrat Jared Polis, holding a community forum on the Hidden Gems wilderness proposal at 5:30 p.m. today at Battle Mountain High School.

Battle Mountain is appropriately named today, given the positions of residents for and against the proposal.

The original proposal was to add 450,000 acres of designated wilderness to the White River National Forest and Bureau of Land Management property, pretty much to include more public land below timberline to these protections.

Today, that acreage has been whittled a bit to 342,000 acres after the Hidden Gems group removed areas for snowmobile use, mountain-bike trails and other concerns.

You’ve read and will continue to read the letters to the editor on both sides of this one. Some love it, and some hate it. Passage of these lands into designated wilderness therefore will be a battle.

The wilderness designation would ban “extractive” uses of the public wildland for mining and drilling along with motorized uses that include mountain bikes as well as off-road vehicles and snowmobiles. Access by horseback would be allowed.

The Forest Service last year expressed a good deal of reluctance to go along with the proposal led by a coalition of environmental groups, preferring a tiny fraction of new land earning the designation.

The agency seldom has been a catalyst for naming wilderness areas; historically that’s largely been the work of citizens groups and politicians. And so it is with this proposal.

As for citizens themselves, well, that’s what the congressman’s community forum this evening is all about. This is one of three, the other two in Boulder and Breckenridge.

The mindsets of those for the proposal and those against it don’t leave a lot of room for compromise. But even those who hate the very idea should acknowledge that the Hidden Gems folks have made some effort to accommodate motorized forest users by keeping popular areas open to such.

Still, the main point for opponents remains openness to all the public, while the main point for advocates is that some small fraction of the wildlands (and wildlife) should be protected from human impacts.

Should be quite an interesting conversation tonight. Hope you can make it.

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