Aspen’s environmental ethic built in part by Fox
September 14, 2006
As much as anyone in Aspen’s modern history, Dottie Fox had a hand in shaping our community and its values.Fox, who died this week at the age of 86, was one of three women who lobbied and cajoled and ultimately convinced the federal government to protect much of the wilderness around Aspen. Along with Connie Harvey and Joy Caudill, Fox helped place hundreds of thousands of acres of forests and streams and peaks and valleys out of the reach of miners, loggers and developers.Fox and her cohorts are a big reason Aspenites are so attuned to the environment. The environmental ethic that pushes the city of Aspen and the Aspen Skiing Co. toward responsible environmental policies, and draws countless locals into the backcountry in winter and in summer, is built largely on the foundation that those three woman built.Fox had the wisdom and the drive to take advantage of a very narrow opening in America’s environmental sensibilities. Between roughly 1960 and 1980, there was a broad national consensus on the environment. The Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, National Environmental Policy Act and the Wilderness Act were all passed by the federal government during that 20-year period. The public and the government actively supported the creation of new wilderness areas and national parks. Fox, Harvey and Caudill cut their teeth by working to expand the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness Area. When created in 1964, it was 80,000 acres. By the time the three women and other environmentally-minded members of this community were finished, the protected area of the Maroon Bell Snowmass Wilderness had grown to 180,000 acres. The three are also largely credited with leading the effort to establish the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness on Aspen’s northeast flank, and the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness south and east of Aspen. We are literally surrounded by their good works.Dottie Fox saved this place. She saved it from the forces of development and industry. It is here for all of us to enjoy in the same condition in which she found it. We are grateful. She will be missed.