The elitists of Hidden Gems | AspenTimes.com

The elitists of Hidden Gems

Dear Editor:

I moved from Texas to Colorado in order to be closer to all the outdoor activities this state has to offer. I have participated in hiking, camping, horseback riding, kayaking, 4×4, mountain biking, dirt biking, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. I am an eight-year veteran of the “Colorado 500” charity dirt bike ride, which has donated more than $3 million to charities in Colorado in its 33 years of existence. I have served as a director-at-large for the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO), which, along with the Colorado State Parks, spends $3 million a year, money raised from the OHV registration program, for trail maintenance and improvements.

The Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal is a complete rouse. Its sole purpose is to lock out a large segment of users in the name of Wilderness. The folks at the Wilderness Workshop are using a tool, The Wilderness Act, as a way of locking folks out of their own public lands. These folks are such elitists that they believe only they know what is best for these lands. The Forest Service and the BLM are both in the middle of rewriting their Travel Management Plans, but this does not go far enough for them. Years ago a true cross-section of user groups came together and conducted statewide meetings with a committee appointed by the governor to come up with the Roadless Rule. We all sat down in good faith to debate and compromise in order to come up with the rules that would be used to manage our roadless areas. Now since they did not get what they wanted they are trying to get the new governor to throw out what took tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars and countless hours of committee member and participant time. Instead they have come up with this new concept of using the Wilderness designation on areas that do not fit the original intent of the act.

I am impressed with Mesa County recognizing that public lands should be preserved for the public, not from the public. They adopted and signed a resolution opposing the Hidden Gems Wilderness campaign. There already exists extensive Wilderness, inventoried roadless areas, areas of critical environmental concern, threatened and endangered species habitat and other designations that prevent development and most activities that a Wilderness designation provides. These areas number in the millions of acres. Inventoried roadless areas alone are at least 4.1 million acres in addition to 3.3 million acres of designated Forest Service Wilderness. Total Forest Service land in Colorado is 14.5 million acres, and this number includes grasslands.

There are additional Wilderness proposals touted by various Colorado Wilderness organizations that include millions of additional Wilderness acres in the future. When is enough, enough?

Kenneth Upchurch

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