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Consider the road not traveled

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -I took the one that was less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.Robert Frost said it beautifully, but he didn’t take it far enough. The road less traveled appeals to those of us with free spirits, but no road at all is the ultimate expression of freedom.Roadless opportunities are shrinking, and future threats to those opportunities are being foisted by mining, energy, logging and myriad development scenarios that vie for our oft-contested public lands.Aldo Leopold once said: “This country has been swinging the hammer of development so long and so hard that it has forgotten the anvil of wilderness which gave value and significance to its labors. … What good are 40 freedoms without a blank spot on the map?”The blank spots, those places without roads, are imperiled by the hammer of development. There are so many hands eager to swing it for fun and profit that only public awareness and an overarching sense of generosity and vision can hold it back.Nationwide, 60 million roadless acres are hanging in the balance of federal legislation that could open vast tracts to commercial development. In the White River National Forest – our national forest – there are more than 1 million acres at stake.This tally includes some large areas that deserve protection: Red Table Mountain north of the Fryingpan Valley, Deep Creek near Coffee Pot Road on the south edge of the Flattops, and Thompson Creek/Assignation Ridge west of Carbondale.Keeping these areas roadless does not mean excluding human activities. A roadless designation can still provide trails for ATVs, mountain bikes, dirt bikes and snowmobiles. Roadless protection just makes it wilder and less prone to incursions from extractive industries that leave the biggest footprints.A statewide Roadless Area Task Force will hold a regional public meeting on June 21 in Glenwood Springs to take comments on roadless areas. Public input ends on that date, and the findings of the hearing will help determine the manner in which the White River National Forest administers roadless tracts.If you live here because you enjoy and appreciate the beauty of wild nature, this issue is vital to your interests. Roadless areas preserve biological diversity, ecological integrity, scenic attributes, environmental quality and a sense of wildness that is rapidly vanishing from the face of the earth.The Wilderness Workshop, based in Carbondale, is working toward protecting roadless areas, in part because designated wilderness is enhanced by adjacent roadless areas in which deer, elk, bears and countless flora and fauna find habitat.The Wilderness Workshop is co-sponsoring “Go Roadless Day” on Saturday, June 10. This will be a day dedicated to enjoying and appreciating our endangered roadless areas. It is also an opportunity to get out in them.Group hikes will explore some of these wild regions on foot, bike and horseback. Trip leaders will discuss the values of these areas and the threats they face. Prospective leaders and participants should contact Dave Reed for details at 963-3977.Today in the White River National Forest, it is difficult to get more than eight miles from a road, even in designated wilderness. More roads will only reduce opportunities for solitude and tranquility, both of which are vital antidotes to the spread of urbanization and the hammer of development.Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays.


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