Protect these ‘gems’ |

Protect these ‘gems’

Dear Editor:

My wife and I built a vacation home in the Fryingpan River Valley nearly a half-century ago, hiking, climbing (and skiing) throughout the surrounding area as a needed balance with academic and organizational careers that took both of us from Chicago to Washington and thence around much of the world.

Retiring as head of the Smithsonian Institution 16 years ago, I am now necessarily more sedentary. While still conducting research at the University of California, San Diego, in my mid-80s, however, I retain a deep and abiding love for this region that you have the honor to represent. It truly deserves to be considered as a kind of iconic jewel in the heartland of our country.

With children and grandchildren (the old house has kept growing) we think of this as our spiritual home. Rocky Mountain sheep, occasional elk, and wild turkey descend 4,000 feet along the steep slope of Red Table Mountain above us to share our land during the winters. Such incredible resources of this country’s past deserve to be treasured and kept open to the enjoyment of our fellow citizens for all time. This leads me to write you with specific regard to a proposal the Colorado Wilderness Workshop is supporting. Entitled “Hidden Gems,” this citizen-generated plan will afford Wilderness protection to a number of relatively small, standalone areas of federal land that in their uniqueness and diversity are the best possible expression of the living and recreational resources of this region.

I am sure you will be receiving petitions in support of many other attractive aspects of this plan, but as one who has hiked into many of these truly gem-like settings over decades I want to stress the extraordinary feature of their separateness from one another in a glorious setting. Thus they can be seen as constituting facets of a single gemstone, each to be reached and enjoyed in its own richness and privacy while yet coming together to express the unfolding depth of interrelated wonders that can take us forever beyond the superficiality of paved roads, vast parking areas, graded trails, and designated lookout points.

This would be an entirely new and superior type of introduction to the wonders of our country, Mr. Polis, one that invites a sense of intimacy with beauties seen and touched close at hand rather than in distant panoramas that are quickly succeeded by others. It brings temporary sojourners together with those who live with and hence know these wonders best, rather than have them merely stepping down for a few moments from tourist buses. You will do a long-enduring service for your constituents as well as generations of visitors if you give this program your support.

Robert McCormick Adams

secretary emeritus, Smithsonian Institution