Students for Gems
November 16, 2009
As Carbondale High School graduates, residents of Colorado, hikers and ecologists, we understand the value of wilderness. Not only do these areas provide much needed habitat for the organisms that live there, but these wild lands also provide us with indirect economic values such as clean water and air and erosion control, not to mention recreational and aesthetic value.
Unfortunately, as the population of Colorado expands there will continually be more pressure on our wilderness. The motorized recreation industry will continue producing more snowmobiles and ATVs, and as the population increases, there will be an increased demand to use these recreational vehicles in the backcountry. At this time there are more than 34,000 snowmobiles registered in Colorado, and that number will only increase.
When public lands were originally set aside no one would have anticipated the current motorized use, let alone what’s to come. We would like to voluntarily limit our generation’s impact on these areas by supporting the Hidden Gems wilderness proposals. We feel that people need to start thinking less of what “they want to do” and more about what we need to do for our wildlife, and our future generations.
When our first wilderness areas were set aside there was much opposition, just as with our first national parks, but we all see the wisdom of it now. We would like our children to know that we also had the foresight to set aside wilderness for them to benefit from in the future.
For those who need or want to use motorized vehicles there are, and will still be, many places to ride in. The president of Mount Sopris Rec Riders stated, “There seems to be a huge misconception that all we do is ride the trails. The trails are just a means to get us started, nothing more. The true snowmobiling experience begins when we turn off the trail and head out into the backcountry. This is where we truly ride, this is where it happens.” Sadly, this off-trail riding is even more stressful for wildlife that don’t know where it’s safe to stay, and also causes more destruction, even by the best intended rider.
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Only 2.73 percent of the lower 48 states are protected as wilderness – about the same percentage that is paved. We must do something to protect remaining natural areas, and by supporting the Hidden Gems proposal, we can insure that the integrity of these areas will be preserved.
The preservation of these wild lands for us and future generations to enjoy is crucial and cannot be achieved if motorized recreation and organized lobbies trump needed protections for our wildlife.
The Hidden Gems sponsors have no personal gain, and should be commended for their fight to save these lands for us.
Nick Harris (College of the Atlantic 11, B.A., human ecology)
Luke Gottlieb (Fort Lewis, environmental studies)
Morgan Williams (Warren Wilson College, B.S., biology/chemistry)
Sam Stevens (Fort Lewis, journalism)
Julia Hedman (Fort Lewis, environmental studies/biology)
Ned Perry (Fort Lewis, geology)