Hooray for Hidden Gems
Last Tuesday I attended the Pitkin County commissioners’ work session on the Hidden Gems. There was literally a standing-room-only crowd, and the vast majority of people were there to support the Hidden Gems.
It was heartening to see so many wilderness advocates take the time to express just how important wilderness designation is to this community. Sloan Shoemaker of the Wilderness Workshop gave an excellent presentation on the Hidden Gems and all the work which has gone into ensuring that the proposal reflects the wishes and concerns of all members of our community.
I was reminded again, during the presentation, just how special these Hidden Gems are. From the towering sandstone fins of Assignation Ridge and the stunning alpine basin of Ruby Lakes to the ecologically rare peat bogs of Hunter Creek, these landscapes truly are hidden gems that deserve our highest and best protection. This wilderness proposal would finally safeguard the biologically rich mid- and low-elevation lands so crucial to keeping our wildlife populations healthy and our drinking water clean. As one of the commissioners noted during the meeting, the Division of Wildlife’s number one concern for our big-game herds is the high levels of stress put on theses animals by recreation.
The Hidden Gems would make a tremendous difference in improving the health of our deer and elk populations. I urge other wilderness advocates to continue writing their county commissioners in support of the Hidden Gems. I was also slightly surprised by the media coverage the following day. While the papers emphasized the commissioners’ few comments indicating that the proposal needed more public comment, I found that the majority of comments given by the commissioners were overwhelmingly positive. All were impressed with the report given by Sloan and the work done by the Hidden Gems campaign to reach out to all facets of our community.
Several commissioners pointed out how extensive the accommodations process has been and how responsive the campaign has been to so many different user groups. I am sure the Hidden Gems campaign will continue with its extensive and thorough outreach. I strongly urge all commissioners to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity for land conservation and endorse the Hidden Gems.
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