Hidden Gems proposal will save land | AspenTimes.com

Hidden Gems proposal will save land

Dear Editor:

We have an incredible opportunity to make a tremendous impact on our environment, culture and ourselves by encouraging Congress to pass the Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal.

We are defined by our landscapes – it’s our clear streams, recreation opportunities, wildlife, and mountains that make us who we are. We are all members of our land community. We are charged with being stewards and protecting it from future degradation. People in our valley value public land tremendously. I would venture to guess that all user groups enjoy viewing wildlife, seeing beautiful scenery, appreciate clean water, and find peace in quiet backcountry settings.

However, we are loving our public lands to death! It is unintentional and not even recognized by most. With increased mechanized recreational use on our public lands we are tearing them up quickly. Our passions and our culture include being out, climbing mountains, exploring rivers, skiing, traveling fast through wild places on mechanized vehicles, and generally being adventurous people. We need to step back and look at what we’re really doing.

As you visit areas that are species rich, valuable habitat, and watersheds for our drinking water, consider your impacts. We are unintentionally depleting our culture as we continually deplete our landscape of its ecological integrity. We must protect our land as Wilderness as a mechanism to protect our culture, health and integrity.

The Hidden Gems campaign is pushing to protect lands that have been thoroughly inventoried and determined to be of Wilderness quality (habitat, species richness, water quality, ecological integrity). In this day and age of increased development and motorized use, it is difficult to find public lands that hold strong wilderness qualities that would allow them to be considered in a Wilderness proposal. They are places we have not completely loved to death, yet. They have a chance to remain wild forever if designated as Wilderness.

Take time to educate yourself on Wilderness. Look carefully at the Hidden Gems maps, identify trails you have issue with and talk about them mile by mile with the campaign staff. There is room to make adjustments for the good of our community. This Roaring Fork Valley is known for fighting for the integrity of our open spaces and public landscapes; let’s continue to fight for our wildlands as a community united to protect our land and ultimately our culture.

Sarah R. Johnson


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