Not scared of Wilderness | AspenTimes.com

Not scared of Wilderness

Dear Editor:

After reading some of the scare-mongering recently about the Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal, I should be terrified that I am about to lose all my rights. According to one poster I’ve seen, the only activities allowed in Wilderness are hunting, horseback riding and hiking. Since I don’t hunt or horseback ride, I’ll only be able to hike. The poster listed about 20 things I won’t be able to do: snowmobile, mountain bike, cut firewood, hang glide, etc.

I do a couple of those 20 things, particularly cut firewood and mountain bike, but I’m not overly concerned. In fact, with the exception of snowmobilers, nobody has to give up much of anything in order for us to protect critical habitat. Why is that? The land under consideration, in order to be designated Wilderness, has to be wilderness. That means no roads or development. I can tell you that when I’m getting firewood, I’m not hiking a half-mile into the wilderness looking for a dead tree. I want it near the road.

As a mountain biker, it’s true that a couple of trails now open to bikes might restrict them – but hundreds or thousands of miles are left open. The same is true for snowmobilers – but the problem is that they don’t stick to trails. They can go anywhere they want over the top of the snow – which IS a problem. Wilderness designation would restrict them to the thousands of miles of trails that are open to them, and the hundreds of thousands of acres that aren’t designated as Wilderness. While they don’t like that, it would be nice to know that there is someplace where wildlife and humans can go and still appreciate the land as it has been for millions of years.

It’s scary to me that in the past 100 years – and mostly in the last 25 – we’ve scraped, paved and impacted so much land that there’s only a tiny fraction left that can even qualify as Wilderness. Let’s not give that up to scare-mongering about issues that don’t even exist.

Peter Westcott

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