Mountain bikers speak out on Gems proposal
September 10, 2009
Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association (RFMBA) was formed in 2008 to provide a voice for the local mountain biking community. Our board and members have volunteered hundreds of hours to collect and analyze trail information and meet with agency officials and stakeholders to better understand the issues and opportunities affecting mountain biking in our area.
Recently, we have received attention for our stance on the Hidden Gems Wilderness initiative. This proposal seeks to designate about 270,000 acres of our surrounding public lands as Wilderness. It is an aggressive campaign that has laid claim to large pieces of public land prior to public comment. A majority of the areas are not designated as wilderness quality on the current U.S. Forest Service land management maps.
Mountain bikes are not allowed in Wilderness areas so, if passed, the Hidden Gems would exclude mountain bikes from a significant amount of public lands in the Roaring Fork Valley, forever. The current proposal will restrict mountain bike use on Smuggler Mountain, in the Hunter Creek Valley, on Basalt Mountain, near the Town of Carbondale, up the Crystal River corridor and many other areas, forever.
This creates a conflict for mountain bikers of the Roaring Fork Valley. Inherently, we are advocates of wild places and the great outdoors. Without the treasure of our public lands, riding would not exist as we know and love it. Mountain bikers share a concern with other trail users that the pressures of extractive industry threaten the qualities that make our favorite rides special and agree that many of these areas should have increased protection.
In analyzing the Hidden Gems initiative, RFMBA has identified 30,000 acres of proposed areas surrounding the Roaring Fork Valley that we feel are indeed appropriate for Wilderness designation, and have communicated this to the proposalÃ¢a¬a¢s proponents. However, we do not believe that Wilderness is the only tool to protect our surrounding public lands. RFMBA has been working closely with the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) to identify alternative ways of protecting these local lands that will simultaneously maintain access for mountain bikers. These methods include National Protection Areas, National Conservation Areas, and National Recreation Areas. When these alternate designations are passed by Congress, they have the same legally binding strength as Wilderness. These designations have never been overturned when passed by Congress.
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Some supporters of the Hidden Gems initiative have been spreading misinformation concerning the effectiveness of alternate designations. The fact is that alternate designations have been successfully used to protect our public lands in perpetuity. Two examples of where they are already being used right here in Colorado are the James Peak Protection Area, near Winter Park, and the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area, south of Grand Junction.
Visit rfmba.org for a map of how such alternative designations could be combined with some expansion of the bountiful Wilderness that already exists in our area. We believe that we can and should preserve much of our surrounding public lands. We look forward to continued discussions with Wilderness proponents before the proposed legislation is brought to Congress.
This is a wonderful community of people with a passion for protecting our natural environment and recreational opportunities. RFMBA is proud to be a part of that community and the important discussion about how to preserve the land and activities we all enjoy.
Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, http://www.rfmba.org
Al Beyer, President
Charlie Eckart, Vice President
Kirk Hinderberger, Treasurer
Mike Pritchard, Secretary
Len Zanni, Board Member