Wilderness designation will deter rescue efforts | AspenTimes.com

Wilderness designation will deter rescue efforts

Dear Editor:West Eagle Search & Rescue is an all-volunteer group of people from the Basalt and Carbondale areas in Eagle County. Our team has assisted in hundreds of backcountry incidents in the past 20 years, including plane crashes, avalanches, illnesses, broken bones, lost individuals and suicides, plus horse, snowmobile, bicycle, ATV, cross-country skiing and climbing accidents. By the time a reporting party gets out of the backcountry to a place where they can call 911, many hours may have gone by. We are then paged; we have to make a plan, gather our gear and meet at the trailhead. Many injuries that could be easily treatable in the ER turn deadly because of the passage of time. We use helicopters to access injured parties when necessary, but often weather, darkness and terrain make them an unfeasible option. If we can ride snowmobiles or ATVs closer to the victim, we can reach injured parties at least four times faster than if we had to hike and pack supplies in (and patients out) on foot. If it were you lying in the backcountry with a broken leg, wouldn’t you want us to get to you as soon as possible – via snowmobile?Currently we can get permission from the government to use our motorized vehicles in Wilderness, but this often takes a lot of time and energy – time and energy that we could be using to do what we do: help the injured party as quickly as possible.The areas that are being slated for Wilderness have many old logging roads, trails and bike paths. The people who use these trails maintain them and keep the underbrush and deadfall cleared. If these areas are turned into Wilderness, existing trails will become so choked with deadfall that even with permission we will no longer be able to get an ATV or snowmobile up them.Turning these areas into Wilderness will make our work much harder, slower and more dangerous – for the patient and for the rescuer. Please say NO to the Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal.Cleve WilliamsWest Eagle County Search and Rescue