A plea to county commissioners
It is my understanding that you will be meeting with Sloan Shoemaker and Wilderness Workshop regarding the Hidden Gems proposal today, and since there is not a public comment scheduled, I beg you to consider the following when meeting with the proponents of this request.
An overwhelming majority of Pitkin County is already Wilderness or roadless. Perhaps Scott Fitzwilliams can give you an exact tally? They would have you believe that these lands are in danger of development and that if we don’t act now, all will be lost. I (and surely each of you) spend much time in the backcountry and know that Pitkin County is in fantastic shape (that’s why we live here!). It’s not like the land disappears if we don’t place harsh restrictions on the land. Why not protect it from oil/gas development only since that is the ultimate goal? I support the U.S. Forest Service Wilderness designation process, which is managed by professionals and a little thing called democracy.
Wilderness Workshop and Hidden Gems preach that they have made numerous concessions; please note that some of the “concessions” they have made were on parking lots, private roads, etc., that were reckless to suggest as Wilderness in the first place. They consciously overreached so that they could say they made concessions.
They would further have you believe that the majority of the public supports this; recent meetings with U.S. Rep. Polis have clearly shown that this is not the case. They conducted a survey, which was (in my opinion) worded so that anyone not specifically familiar with the request would be led to support their view. Do you support Wilderness? Of course. Do you want to stop “mining, commercial logging, and oil and gas drilling” in the forest? Who doesn’t? That survey is biased by definition. The thing that they fail to ask is what people think about shutting down historical recreation areas. Here’s the link to the survey: http://www.whiteriverwild.org/public/File/RBI%20Strategies%20Report%20on%20Hidden%20Gems%20Poll.pdf. It shows that they lump snowmobiles, jeeps, mountain bikes and dirt bikes with “mining, commercial logging, and oil and gas drilling.” Tell me with a straight face that isn’t biased.
Finally, and most importantly, they have money. They have auto-fill forms which e-mail each of you with a few clicks. They have six – six! – full-time employees. They have money to conduct surveys. I am just one man (of many) that relies on you to help me when these type of proposals come across your desk. Steve Smith with Wilderness Workshop said it best (or worst) when asked how much they planned to spend on passing the Hidden Gems campaign. He replied, “Whatever it takes.” Whatever it takes? Can you imagine? “Whatever it takes” conjures negative images in my mind.
Please don’t let the big money take advantage of the little guys. We need your help!
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Pitkin County administrators are proposing a more than $142 million budget for 2020, which is about $6 million less than this year because of fewer construction projects and capital improvements.