Shifting the debate
September 29, 2009
Many recent letters to this paper have warned mountain bikers and other motorized recreationalists that they need to be aware of the impacts of the Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal; that it will have a significant impact on the people living near the White River National Forest. They point out that the Wilderness campaign is serious and will have a significant impact on the way our community collectively decides to manage the landscape in which we live, work and play.
I couldn’t agree more. The Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal is a serious response to a serious issue. As a local, national, and global community we have failed to safeguard the natural resources which sustain both humans and other species. Water shortages, global warming and the immense pressure to utilize our entire land-base for industry, food production, and recreation are unequivocal indicators and consequences of this failure. The impetus for the Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal does not come from a desire to provide more land for a particular type of recreation. It is a thoughtful proposal crafted along ecological principals and designed to ensure the long-term health of the local and regional landscape upon which all members of the Roaring Fork Valley depend.
I urge the citizens of the Roaring Valley not to consider the merits of the Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal based solely on whether or not a favorite trail is included in the proposal, or whether access for an individual’s cherished form of play is excluded or allowed by the proposal. Instead our community must make a decision about whether or not we want to create some of the solutions to challenging and complex environmental issues. Focusing the debate too strongly on which types of toys are allowed in which parts of the landscape is not only short-sighted but masks the very real issue of solving environmental problems by dealing with it in a trivial manner.
The debate around this issue must shift from considering how we will divide up the landscape for our individual recreationalist pursuits and re-center upon how we as a mountain community will responsibly manage and protect the exceptional landscape in which we live as part of the tremendous effort needed to ensure a sustainable environmental future.
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