Gems has broad support |

Gems has broad support

Dear Editor:

Some opponents of Hidden Gems do not like recent poll results that show overwhelming support for this citizen-initiated proposal. Rather than critique the substance, however, they attack the messenger. That is their right, but it doesn’t change the substance.

The poll was conducted by RBI Strategies and Research, an established Colorado firm with a track record of more than 20 years of conducting or overseeing polling in the 2nd Congressional District. Their scientific survey found both widespread support for the Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal and that the majority of supporters felt strongly in favor of protection. In other words, the support was both broad and deep.

Supporters outnumber opponents 2 to 1, with the poll showing that most of that opposition is not very strongly felt. This indicates that the loud voices who so stridently oppose the Hidden Gems are a minority within a minority.

Congress reserved the power to designate Wilderness to itself, and for very good reason. Much of what we now know as Wilderness was what the U.S. Forest Service formerly called “primitive areas,” and their bias toward developing these lands is precisely why Congress felt the need to intervene, passing the Wilderness Act in 1964 after nearly 10 years of debate.

The law was crafted to allow activities such as grazing, horseback riding, hunting, wildlife management, insect control, and firefighting and mitigation. The Wilderness Act is part of the multiple use management of public lands as spelled out in both law and regulation, allowing for a range of uses and activities while preserving the land’s essential naturalness.

In passing the Wilderness Act, Congress specifically acted to remove decision-making authority about Wilderness designation on public lands from land management agencies. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are part of the executive branch, not the legislative branch. Because Wilderness designation is a congressional prerogative, it is in the hands of a representative body that represents the people.

The history of Wilderness, nationally and in Colorado, is one of citizens petitioning elected leaders to protect cherished landscapes. Many of Colorado’s most iconic places have been designated Wilderness in this manner – from the ground up by local citizens who care deeply about the lands that surround them. This, too, is the history of Hidden Gems, a landscape worthy of this highest legal regard.

Pete Kolbenschlag

campaign director, Hidden Gems campaign


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