Lower Blue group supports Hidden Gems | SummitDaily.com

Lower Blue group supports Hidden Gems

Friends of the Lower Blue River Board of Directors

The Friends of the Lower Blue River (FOLBR) goard of directors is grateful for the opportunity to submit the following letter for consideration in the ongoing discussion regarding the land use proposal known as the “Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign.”

Through the years, Wilderness proposals have been brought to the Congress of the United States by citizen advocacy under the framework of the Wilderness Act of 1964. The FOLBR board recognizes the Hidden Gems campaign as a part of a necessary and ongoing process of citizen involvement in the management of public lands in the United States.

The FOLBR position also recognizes and encourages all stakeholders to remain respectfully and thoroughly engaged with each other, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, and the primary proponents of the Hidden Gems campaign in this ongoing process. The FOLBR supports the willingness of the proponents to alter proposed wilderness boundaries based on input from other stakeholders and in recognition that landscape level changes require balanced and thoughtful boundary suggestions.

There are many factors which must be considered. Fire mitigation, watershed quality and quantity, and utility corridor protection must be analyzed and balanced with the desire for scientifically identified habitat protection and quiet recreation opportunities.

Motorized and mechanized recreationalists have clearly expressed their concerns. Our friends and neighbors who enjoy motor sports and mountain biking should be reminded that, by far, most areas proposed for addition to Wilderness are already designated non-motorized, non-mechanized. In these areas, Wilderness designation under the Hidden Gems proposal will not restrict access which previously existed. In those which have other designations, the Hidden Gems proponents have carefully crafted proposal areas to exclude USFS designated and approved routes, creating what are sometimes referred to as “cherry stems.”

These above described realities must be recognized in any Wilderness proposal and highlight the need for the highest legal land protection. Some of the most wild and untrammeled parts of Summit County’s mountains, portions of the Tenmile, Gore and Front Range do not have levels of protection many deem necessary and are not protected from various threats, such as inappropriate salvage logging, illegal off-road vehicle use, and resource extraction. Again, the FOLBR supports the ongoing process of carefully analyzing the concerns of all stakeholders who are willing to respect the rights of the proponents to propose Wilderness and the administration of the agencies legally charged with land management and protection.

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There is only one law in our country that insures such protection, the Wilderness Act of 1964. There is no substitute for its stringent standards that protect the natural qualities of a place, its wildlife and biodiversity, while, at the same time allows multiple use found in myriad forms of human recreation, hunting, fishing, and even livestock grazing.

Remarkably, the Tenmile Range, one of the most beautiful in Colorado, does not have any wilderness protection. There are no better day hikes anywhere into alpine drainages decorated with mountain goats and glacial lakes than McCullough Gulch and Mohawk Lakes. Similarly, the proposed Porcupine Gulch wilderness addition provides the only land bridge for migratory animals to cross I-70, over the top of Eisenhower Tunnel. The Hoosier Ridge area north of the Hoosier Pass contains one of the most massive and rugged mountains in the county, Red Mountain. This area contains plant species found nowhere else on our planet, and has no maintained trails. These areas, along with additions to the existing Eagles Nest and Ptarmigan Wildernesses, each provide connectivity of natural landscapes.

Biodiversity flourishes within large, interconnected ecosystems. The proposed Hidden Gems wilderness additions will connect Summit County wildlands with those in contiguous counties. And protected wilderness means more remote, tranquil, healing experiences for people distressed with the pace of growth and development elsewhere.

The board of directors of Friends of the Lower Blue River encourages support for the Hidden Gems process of identifying and submitting suitable and capable lands for Wilderness designation in the Hidden Gems campaign in Summit County.

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