McWilderness is a sham |

McWilderness is a sham

Reading between the lines of Congressman McInnis’ Red Table Mountain Wilderness legislation, it is clear that he is taking a page from George Bush’s playbook.

This legislation is a preemptive strike, positioning McInnis as the go-to guy on Red Table Mountain Wilderness. It is masterful PR manipulation.

There are some curious facts surrounding this legislation.

It won’t see any action until the next session of Congress when, due to redistricting, Red Table Mountain will be in Congressman Udall’s district. Why is McInnis introducing wilderness legislation for lands in someone else’s district?

This is especially curious given the depth of hostility he displayed when Congresswoman Degette introduced wilderness legislation for lands in his district.

The very idea of a Red Table Mountain Wilderness is as homegrown as it gets. It was first proposed by the Aspen Wilderness Workshop’s Citizen Management Alternative that went on to become the basis of the White River National Forest’s Alternative I in the draft forest plan.

Yet, curiously, Congressman McInnis would let us believe that he dreamed it up all by himself. Further, despite the fact that the Congressman chants local control and cooperation, particularly when it come to wilderness proposals, his office never bothered to contact the very people who gave birth to a Red Table Mountain Wilderness proposal.

Congressman McInnis’ spokesman, Blair Jones, is quoted in Wednesday’s Aspen Times, saying, “The Congressman is sorry these groups have chosen not to participate in this process … .” Huh? Who’s not participating?

The fact is, Congressman McInnis secretly developed our idea into legislation (even keeping it from Congressman Udall), precluded our involvement and is now spinning it that we are the uncooperative spoilers when we express our reservations about his wilderness-lite sham.

Not willing to stand on that piece of spin alone, Jones goes on to insinuate that the Aspen Wilderness Workshop is insincere in our desire to protect Colorado’s beautiful places. That one is laughable at best.

Since its inception in 1967, AWW has a long and venerable record of fighting for wilderness and wildlands protection including doubling the size of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area and securing designation for the Hunter-Frying Pan and Collegiate Peaks wildernesses. In the off chance that he believes his own spin, Jones needs to spend a little more time in the district.

All this begs the question: Why is Congressman McInnis expending all this energy on a Red Table Mountain Wilderness? It’s unlikely that it’s a midnight conversion. A close reading of the legislation itself gives an indication.

It is a hollow wilderness bill antithetical to the whole notion of wilderness. McInnis’ proposed Red Table Mountain Wilderness Area would be wilderness in name only. Thirty-eight miles of motorized routes fragment the Red Table Mountain McWilderness into three separate pieces.

The legislation has language allowing unrestricted National Guard helicopter maneuvers “over and upon” Red Table Mountain. It denies the Forest Service authority to protect water within wilderness even though this authority is expressly derived from federal court.

One is left to surmise that this wilderness bill is a preemptive strike strategically designed to manipulate the process. It positions Congressman McInnis as a champion of wilderness and those who think it is a bogus wilderness bill as insincere and uncooperative.

It sets him up as the original sponsor of a Red Table Mountain Wilderness, forcing Congressman Udall to appear obstructionist when he inevitably points out that the emperor wears no clothes and that this “wilderness” is a farce.

The Aspen Wilderness Workshop will not accept phony wilderness that compromises the integrity of the entire National Wilderness Preservation System. When the inevitable invectives are hurled questioning our sincerity, we will stand on our record.

We look forward to working with entire delegation to craft true wilderness legislation for Red Table Mountain.

Sloan Shoemaker

Aspen Wilderness Workshop

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