Brian von Dedenroth: Hidden Gems will limit our footprint
I grew up in Southern California; a land of freeways, fast food and brown air. So imagine my awe when visiting Vail for the first time in the early ’80s. The concrete was replaced with grass, the strip malls with trees, and sub-divisions named Elk Cove by elks in a cove. Escaping to the Rockies represented a place where I could get lost in the natural world and flee the seemingly enormous problems adolescents think they have. Fast forward to today and I see the same similarities to Southern Cal. Our local population keeps growing and with it the pressures on our backcountry. Roads, second homes and strip malls have replaced valleys and fields where horses, elk, and bear grazed.
I am writing in support of the Hidden Gems wilderness proposal. The proposal embodies the hope that we can continue to coexist with nature by voluntarily limiting our footprint on the land. Our existing wilderness areas – e.g., Maroon Bells-Snowmass and Holy Cross – are a big part of what makes our area such an amazing place to live. We need to act now to set aside these last best unprotected places before they’re lost forever from many threats including: road building, motorized vehicles, gas drilling, and other extractive industries. The Hidden Gems proposal aims to enlarge these protected areas, and to create a few brand-new ones maintaining a significant portion of our backcountry in its natural, unfragmented state.
Designation under the Wilderness Act is the strongest, most lasting protection for wild landscapes and wildlife on public lands. Once designated, a wilderness area, which currently is only a meager 2.73 percent of the lower 48 states, cannot be altered by administrative action or an executive order – only by another act of Congress. But don’t think designation as a wilderness hinders our opportunities. You can still hunt, fish, camp, ride horses, graze livestock, rock-climb, hike/backpack, kayak/canoe in wilderness areas.
I’m amazed that previous generations had the foresight to set aside our existing wilderness areas. I hope we have the wisdom and courage to enlarge that legacy for ourselves and future generations. A great way to learn about the Hidden Gems wilderness proposal is to go to http://www.whiteriverwild.org.
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