Proponents urge Polis to move on Hidden Gems plan | AspenTimes.com

Proponents urge Polis to move on Hidden Gems plan

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER – Supporters of designating 342,000 acres as federal wilderness in western Colorado are urging Rep. Jared Polis to introduce a bill to start the process.

Proponents say more than 3,000 voters and residents have signed a letter of support for the Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal in Eagle and Summit counties. The proposal includes public land in Pitkin and Gunnison counties, too.

Businesses, including the Aspen Skiing Co., have endorsed the Hidden Gems plan. The Eagle County commissioners and the town of Breckenridge are among the local governments supporting it.

Supporters have presented the plan to Polis, whose district covers some of the land. Only Congress can designate federal wilderness.

“The level of support has been growing for months,” Pete Kolbenschlag of the Hidden Gems Campaign said Wednesday. “More than 10 percent of the residents of Breckenridge, for instance, have signed the open letter of support, as have hundreds of residents living around Vail, Avon and Eagle.”

Opponents, however, are concerned about recreation and the ability to fight fires being curtailed. Motorized vehicles, mountain biking and several other activities aren’t allowed in wilderness areas.

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Polis has held public hearings on the proposed wilderness and has said while he’s optimistic a consensus can be reached, he doesn’t want to rush it.

Brian Branton, chief of staff for Polis, said in an e-mail that the congressman is working through the proposal “area by area, detail by detail.”

“It’s much more important that we get this right than do it fast,” Branton said.

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