Need to protect state’s backcountry
Dear Editor:Recently Sen. Mark Udall took action to help protect Colorado’s outdoor heritage and our backcountry hunting and angling traditions by starting a collaborative, community-driven process to develop legislation protecting public lands in the central mountains and Arkansas River Canyon area.As Udall knows well, “Activities such as hiking, skiing, paddling and fishing contribute more than $10 billion annually to our economy, supporting some 100,000 Colorado jobs and generating $500 million in state tax revenue. Wilderness ensures that skiers and hikers have beautiful vistas, anglers have clean streams in which to fish and hunters have healthy big game herds. These resources attract visitors from all over the nation and world.”He understands that about 250,000 people float down the Arkansas River through Browns Canyon every year, through a unique landscape of rock formations, hidden side canyons, pion and juniper covered hills, and cottonwood oases. Bounded by the Arkansas River to the west, the 20,000 acres of big-game habitat here can be accessed via the roads defining the other three boundaries.Most of the Forest Service land within the proposed Browns Canyon Wilderness Area is currently designated as a unit to be managed for “big game winter range,” including “deer, elk, and bighorn sheep.” The Colorado Division of Wildlife identified Browns Canyon as an important wintering ground for deer and elk, and between 1980 and 1985, the division introduced 60 bighorn sheep into Browns Canyon.The proposal is also supported by the Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency that manages roughly half of the 20,000 acres. A preliminary report issued toward the end of 2011 identified 17 backcountry areas on BLM land in nine states where there is “significant local support for Congressional protection.” Among those lands is Browns Canyon.National Rifle Association life-benefactor member (and military veteran) Bill Sustrich hit the nail on the head when he said, “From my own observations, I have seen nothing yet created by mankind that offers the degree of habitat protection that is achieved through wilderness designation.” Bill should know, having raised a family of four youngsters on deer, elk and trout he hunted and caught in the Browns Canyon area. Bill knows that we need to take the advice of Theodore Roosevelt, and “preserve large tracts of wilderness … for the exercise of the skill of the hunter, whether or not he is a man of means.” Like Udall, Bill understands that healthy public wildlife habitat, rivers and streams are the foundation supporting the American pastimes of hunting and fishing and our unequaled outdoor recreation economy.David A. LienCo-chairman, Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
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