As a Vail Valley business owner I support all of the Hidden Gems proposal and Congressman Jared Polis' efforts to designate some of these lands as Wilderness. Wilderness is good for my business, good for our valley, and good for the state.
I have been an outfitter based in the Vail Valley for the past 12 years, building Bearcat Stables from six to 60 horses. I do trips as far as Monument Valley, Arizona and Bryce Canyon, Utah. Over five years, I have led trips on the Colorado Trail taking guests from Denver to Durango. Bearcat Stables offers day rides but also four-day rides from Squaw Creek to Aspen, and we are the only outfitter working with the 10th Mountain Hut System. We ride through Wilderness regularly and, in fact the majority of my business is located in Wilderness, as well as in several of the proposed Hidden Gems areas.
It may seem that wilderness designation makes my job as an outfitter harder but the reality is that if horseback outfitting wants a sustainable economic future, we must protect the back country experience. That is what attracts my clients here, that is what they come to experience. That is the real Colorado.
We use a cross-cut saw to cut logs or downfall on the trail. It is part of the adventure for our guests and part of our contribution to Wilderness trail stewardship. Sure, sometimes we must divide a group in order to meet the "heartbeats" limit in wilderness - but that is good for the group and better for the land. If I need to set up a camp, I don't need a truck; I use my horses to do so. None of this is a hardship; it is simply part of doing business in the most beautiful landscapes of the world.
Rescue in wilderness is not a problem. I have a cell and a satellite phone and can call for help if I need to. Emergency access is allowed in wilderness, by foot, by vehicle and by aircraft as necessary.
Our clients pay for a back country experience on horseback. They don't want to see ATVs and bicycles. The horses are safer without those distractions as well, although as a responsible outfitter, I make sure that my horses are as safe as possible in every condition.
Wilderness only adds to the horseback experience, making it special and one of the most memorable experiences a person can have. That is why I fully support the Hidden Gems proposal. I am completely in favor of protecting all the wilderness quality lands we can. Not only does it benefit my business but it protects a piece of Colorado as it has been for centuries - wild, remote, untouched. This is good for wildlife, for people today - both visitors and residents - and for future generations.
I applaud Rep. Polis for working to move this matter forward, and urge Colorado's senators and other elected officials to support it too.
Owner, Bearcat Stables