Jared Polis: With Wilderness designation, process matters
November 3, 2009
Protecting Colorado’s natural treasures means protecting our state’s identity and its prosperity. At its heart, our wild places are an investment, a savings account that insulates our most valuable resources from everyday impulses. Our landscapes are treasured, not just for aesthetics, but because scientific study tells us the value of conservation. In providing refuge for nature, we provide ourselves a reservoir of recreation, history, philosophy, science, clean air and water, not to mention amazing landscapes. In seeking these benefits, however, we must ensure we are preserving the right areas through the proper process.
The “Hidden Gems” is a proposal, currently being drafted by the Hidden Gems Coalition, to designate areas within the White River National Forest and the district which I represent as wilderness. I am closely watching this proposal and working with those who have concerns as it continues to be discussed and revised by its supporters and a diversity of local interests. For this proposal to be adopted, it would need to gain Congressional approval, and it is very important to me that it undergoes the proper process here in Colorado to refine it.
Public input is the most important part in this process. Concerned citizens should feel free to reach out to the proposal’s supporters directly, as well as to my office. Over the coming weeks, months and beyond, my office will host open houses and listening sessions to garner public opinions, questions, comments and any concerns as we join local stakeholders in examining this proposal.
The Hidden Gems proposal is just that – a proposal – not a final product, not yet a piece of legislation. It is a work in progress, one which the proposal’s supporters are continuing to revise as new data and trail information are made available. This is why it is so important that area residents and interested parties express their thoughts now.
Working to address both the needs of users and conservation isn’t always easy, but it is possible and in fact has been done many times before. It requires a process focused on the details and the specific merits of each area and trail. The intricacy of these important specifics can be very complex and often lead to confusion. Undoubtedly and unfortunately, extreme points of view will enter this discussion but we must all work together to put passions aside and stick to the facts.
My office has already heard some examples of confusion and misinformation and I hope that I can be helpful in getting to the bottom of any questions and concerns. Individuals have cited old or incorrect maps and trails, have confused the “Hidden Gems” wilderness proposal with other proposals, have heard incorrect timeframes, have assumed that draft proposals are final, or are unaware of solutions that are being worked out between opposing viewpoints. This is exactly why process counts in the question of wilderness designation.
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The Wilderness Act of 1964 endowed Congress with the power to conserve special places not just to the benefit of our wildlands, but also for the people who live, love and rely upon them. My goal is to focus the conversation and debate on the true merits or shortcomings of specific areas, not broad generalities or philosophies. I hope everyone will join me in examining this proposal and share with me any thoughts, questions, support or criticisms. I encourage all interested parties to contact my office, either in person at one of our future events, by phone (Frisco office: (970) 668-3240 or Boulder office: (303) 484-9596), or online at http://www.polis.house.gov, to share their views.
Jared Polis is U.S. Representative from Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes Summit County.