Hidden Gems squeeze | AspenTimes.com

Hidden Gems squeeze

Dear Editor:

In response to Cameron Scott’s letter (Aug. 25): I am a newcomer to the pros and cons of the Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign, but I am a longtime valley resident, and an avid user of the backcountry areas affected by this proposal.

It seems to me that the whole process has taken place without input from those most affected by its impact. Mountain bikers seem to be in the dark about “wilderness areas,” and the general consensus seems to be that it will not affect their use … guess what, you will be excluded from use of the massive amounts of proposed wilderness! Many others who frequent the backcountry have no idea that their access is less than two months away from being lost forever!

I use the backcountry in many ways: hiking, biking, four-wheeling (jeeping) and snowmobiling, and have done so for many years. One of my concerns when I am out there is making sure that I have as little impact upon the beauty of our surroundings as possible, and frequently pick up after less-concerned users. It angers me to think that many of the areas in and around the Roaring Fork Valley, which I use to access the backcountry, will be completely off limits if Hidden Gems (H.G.) has their way.

I do understand that H.G. wants certain areas off limits to drilling, but designating it “wilderness” is not the answer. Many of these areas (Basalt Mountain, Hay Park, 4-Mile, Flat Tops, etc.) include multiple use roads/trails that allow access to beautiful hiking and/or mixed use. H.G. is not required to submit an impact/use study of these areas in order to get congressional support of this bill. They have only recently held meetings for the general public, because U.S. Rep. John Salazar stated that he would not submit it to Congress without such input. Anyone who attended those meetings will agree that they were “heated.”

One of the main reasons H.G. is trying to get this pushed through so quickly is that they currently have a favorable Congress; if they can get it on the agenda, it will pass! If it passes, there will be no going back, these areas will no longer allow anything mechanized or motorized (oh, yeah, wheelchairs accepted – if you know anyone who can easily get their wheelchair into areas where only hiking/horses are allowed). You can forget access to Basalt Mountain via Red Table Road, 70 percent of 4-Mile area will be off limits, and access to the Flat Tops from Rifle to Dotsero will be a thing of the past!!

The U.S. Wilderness Act of 1964 designated roughly 6 million acres of U.S. land as wilderness (no visible signs of human impact). As of today, we have increased that number to 109.5 million acres! Many of H.G.’s proposed areas have significant evidence of human impact, so why should they be allowed to include it? Without an impact study they can!

If you use our backcountry, please get involved now!

More information: whiteriverforestalliance.com

John Hembel


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