Chance of a lifetime |

Chance of a lifetime

Dear Editor:

The Hidden Gems Wilderness plan is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to preserve environmentally sensitive parts of the national forests that surround us.

The areas proposed for protection by Hidden Gems generally consist of intact lower-elevation habitats within the White River National Forest. Development or overuse of these areas, many of which are located right here in the Fryingpan, Crystal and Roaring Fork river drainages, would have a major impact on wildlife, soils and vegetation.

Among other protections, the Hidden Gems Wilderness plan will protect our most treasured landscapes and vital water resources from the relentless assault on our public lands by extractive industries like oil/gas exploration and the ever-increasing appetite of the motorized recreation industry. Demand for access is essentially infinite, but these lands are finite. At some point, we have to say “enough” if we want to preserve the very reason we visit these lands.

Some expressing opposition may not be aware that those drafting the Hidden Gems plan have worked diligently, through an extensive outreach program, to reshape the proposal’s boundaries in order to accommodate the needs and wishes of the many stakeholders and user groups. Significant acreage has been pared out of the original 400,000-plus acre Wilderness proposal to meet user and agricultural needs.

The soon-to-be-released White River Travel Management Plan shows that many roads and mountain bike routes are proposed for closure by the U.S. Forest Service. Hidden Gems in fact has a small impact on trails and roads. Only a scant few miles of roads would be closed if the Hidden Gems proposal is adopted.

Most of us have seen first-hand the increased pressure on our public lands resulting from overuse, development and the growth of the oil and gas industry. The sensitive backcountry areas that will be protected by Hidden Gems cannot continue to handle impacts from these threats.

We as a society have an obligation to pass our public lands onto future generations, untarnished by the actions of our generation. This may be a tall order, but Hidden Gems is a big step in accomplishing this goal.

Chuck Downey


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