Leave Wilderness to the experts
There has been a lot of talk recently about the Wilderness Workshop’s Hidden Gems proposal. The White River Forest Alliance, representing the motorized community as well as other backcountry user groups, is one of the local organizations in opposition of the proposal. I have been pretty naive on the whole topic until I attended a meeting in Carbondale Feb. 23, 2010. Members of both groups were there as well as Scott Fitzwilliams, supervisor for White River National Forest. It is my understanding after attending the meeting that the WRFA and HG’s advocacy groups are working on some sort of compromise, but who really knows?
As a backcountry user myself, I decided to do some quick research on Wilderness areas in Colorado and found some interesting facts I thought the public should know.
Currently there are 43 designated Wilderness areas in Colorado comprising roughly 3.5 million acres. We have more Wilderness areas in our state than Wyoming and New Mexico combined. There are 33 Wilderness areas in Utah. Most of us know by now that the Hidden Gems proposal encompasses 400,000 acres in our backyards. If the proposal goes through it would increase Colorado’s Wilderness Areas by one tenth. This seems incredibly excessive. If you have doubts go to http://www.wilderness.net and click on the link for Colorado and then go to maps. When I did this I could barely make out the state.
I question the Wilderness Workshop’s expertise on the subject. It seems to me that their passion for the forest, which I respect, has morphed into an extremism made evident by their demand to take our public lands away from us. The U.S. Forest Service has been a reputable agency since its inception in 1905. It is extremely competitive and doesn’t pay very well, but the people it employs also have a true passion for our lands. What makes the Forest Service so wrong and the Wilderness Workshop so right? Let’s leave land designations to the experts and remember that our National Forests are “the land of many uses.”
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The state transportation department’s $2.6 million plan to rebuild the roundabout west of Aspen next summer and fall appears to be moving along on schedule based on two votes in the Upper Roaring Fork Valley last week.