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Gems proposal discriminates

Dear Editor:

After reading Paul Andersen’s opinion column in Monday’s Aspen Times, I simply couldn’t limit my response to the attached blog.

It’s obvious that Paul has no tolerance for motorized recreation, but ATV use in Utah causing deterioration of Colorado’s snowpack? What a load of B.S.! And, how does ATV use have anything to do with drilling? I would really like to know where Paul found the “study” to which he refers? I’m pretty sure if it does indeed exist, that it came from another tree-hugging, liberal conservationist. It is truly hard to imagine that anyone could believe this rhetoric. The sad part is that some uninformed readers may actually take his “opinion” as fact.

I spent 10-plus years ski racing in the Alps, where the exact same phenomenon happens nearly every spring. Winds blow over the Sahara, carrying dust north to Europe, and depositing it onto the terrain; it is most noticeable on the snowpack. Here, winds blow over the desert(s), including 25 million acres of desert in California and southern Nevada, as well as the high deserts of Arizona, Nevada and Utah, basically everything west and southwest of us, and cause the same situation. We just happen to be in the path of those deposits. Natural erosion through weather cycles causes 99 percent of the problem, the other 1 percent can be attributed to various factors, including dirt roads, development, cattle, wildlife, and yes, human recreation.

Our forest and wild lands are precious, but the idea of excluding responsible users through Wilderness designation teaches our children intolerance, not responsibility. Get a clue … education and cooperation among the user groups is the real answer to saving our lands! The vast majority of backcountry users are also the best stewards of our surrounding forest. If you want proof, just look at the lands Wilderness Workshop wants to designate as Wilderness: 400,000-plus acres of White River National Forest that has been used recreationally for 50 years, and not just by hikers and horseback riders, but nearly every type of motorized and mechanized recreational use as well. These lands are still so pristine as to be included in the Hidden Gems proposal.

We, as multiusers, know the intrinsic value of these lands, and we know that by excluding many of the people who choose to access those lands by responsible motorized means, you are doing a disservice to mankind, as well as to the lands you wish to protect. Don’t think that destruction will cease with the exclusion of snowmobiles, bicycles or chainsaws. When trail maintenance needs to be performed, those you wish to exclude are the ones caring for the trails. Hikers and horseback riders rarely remove a trail blockage, most do not carry the necessary tools or equipment, so they simply go around, causing additional impact and erosion.

Wilderness is an important part of our forest, but we currently have a good blend of accessible forest vs. Wilderness in the WRNF.

Say “NO” to Hidden Gems!

John “Mad Cow” Hembel

Basalt


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