Vail Valley snowmobilers oppose wilderness campaign
Vail CO Colorado
AVON, Colorado – Gypsum, Colorado, resident Lance Trujillo doesn’t want to see more local land closed to snowmobiling.
That’s why he opposes a campaign aimed at preserving more than 200,000 acres of wilderness in Eagle County, Colorado.
“It’s just another piece that’s being closed and taken away from snowmobiling,” Trujillo said. “We’ve seen this in the past in other areas where we’ve lost the ability to snowmobile because of wilderness. This would just be another chunk taken out of the backcountry that we access.”
Trujillo was among about 20 members of the Holy Cross Powder Hounds, a county snowmobiling club, along with a handful of other snowmobile enthusiasts, who listened to a presentation Tuesday night on the Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign.
Susie Kincade, the Eagle County Outreach Coordinator for the campaign, discussed the benefits of preserving the land with the Avon Town Council.
Supporters of the Hidden Gems campaign contend that between 400,000 and 450,000 acres in the White River and Gunnison national forests deserve wilderness designation to prevent logging, mining and natural-gas exploration.
A coalition of environmental groups, led by the Carbondale nonprofit group Wilderness Workshop, has been lobbying county and town officials, trying to win their support for the plan. Their goal is to convince Colorado’s congressional delegation to introduce a bill on the topic.
Opponents are upset because the wilderness designation prevents all mechanical uses, from four-wheeling to mountain biking.
Trujillo said he’s particularly concerned about Lower Piney, a popular snowmobiling stretch. The Hidden Gems plan calls for adding about 28,000 acres northeast of Wolcott to the Eagles Nest Wilderness Area.
Kincade said she wants to sit down with opponents of the campaign to discuss which trails they are concerned about.
The wilderness designation still would allow for many other types of recreation, such as hiking, canoeing and horseback riding, she said.
“The idea here is these are roadless places in their natural state,” she said, noting ATVs and other motorized vehicles harm wildlife and create roads that add silt to the watershed.