Gems of propaganda
We are writing from the standpoint of the multiuser, as we are both active in our national forests as backcountry skiers, climbers, mountain and dirt bike riders and trail runners.
We don’t understand the purpose of the Hidden Gems proposal when there is already a Travel Management Plan currently in process by the U.S. Forest Service in both the White River and Gunnison national forests. These proposed Travel Management Plans have been in process for several years and have been designed to assess how we best utilize and manage our public/forest lands with respect to wildlife, conservation, the environment and use within the forest. Now and for the future!
It takes into account how we best manage the forest as our population grows and the popularity for all types of outdoor recreation expand. Since 2002, the current White River Forest TMP proposes 82,000 acres for closure to Wilderness designation. The Hidden Gems campaign proposes a blanket closure of 400,000 acres without due process, which includes necessary environmental impact statements and public input from all user groups – not just a “select” few.
By reducing the variety of user groups to foot and horse traffic only, you effectively eliminate the number of stewards advocating responsible use, augmenting the Forest Service with their time and effort.
The White River National Forest does not support the Hidden Gems proposal. The Hidden Gems campaign has consistently misrepresented the White River Forest TMP draft proposal, stating that under the preferred alternative (G), these lands were already slated for closure to mechanized and motorized use. Not true. No specific alternative has been chosen as of yet. The Forest Service are assessing alternatives within the plan that better accommodate and manage multiuse recreation within the White River and Gunnison national forests.
Once these areas are closed to Wilderness designation, this will cause more impact to existing trails. As the population grows, so will recreational use. Remaining open recreation areas would be subject to overuse. The creation of rogue trails and the potential for conflicts between user groups would ensue. We simply cannot afford to lose more public lands to Wilderness designation beyond what the Forest Service proposes.
Lastly, there is a misconception the Hidden Gems campaign has instigated through their propaganda that would lead us to believe that if you are opposed to Wilderness designation (with a capital W), you are opposed to wilderness (in the true sense of the word). It vilifies any of us who oppose this proposal, and that’s exactly what they are trying to achieve. Who doesn’t appreciate wilderness? We believe that every one of us who use our forest lands in any capacity want to see it protected and preserved for future generations.
We want to continue to have the capacity to care for and protect these lands in conjunction with the Forest Service, and to access them responsibly in our chosen modality – without exclusion, and with tolerance to all users.
Traci Schalow and Chris Goplerud
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