Maryann Gaug: The case for Wilderness areas
I’m a little confused by Michael’s comment: “The Forest Service has a process for wilderness designation that includes public input. The Forest Service has the capability of legitimately establishing wilderness designation.”
The Forest Service cannot designate wilderness. Only an act of Congress can establish wilderness areas. The Forest Service can recommend areas to be designated as wilderness as can citizens, but an elected U.S. representative has to introduce a congressional bill to create wilderness. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have to approve wilderness legislation, and the president has to sign it.
The whole idea of the Wilderness Act of 1964 is “to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition …”
Some key concepts of wilderness as stated in the Wilderness Act of 1964 include “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man … has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation … may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.”
Other letters to the editor have often focused on how the Hidden Gems Proposal is just an attempt “to close public lands to all but a few users.” The Hidden Gems proposal will protect wildlife habitat and ecosystems. Relatively pristine ecosystems are important for clean water and clean air for us humans. Existing wilderness in the White River National Forest lies in higher elevation areas. Wildlife also needs lower elevation areas for corridors and habitat. Very little of those areas are preserved as wilderness in Colorado, thus the Hidden Gems campaign.
Please, when considering Hidden Gems, think of preservation of wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and pristine ecosystems, all of which benefit us human beings. This proposal is not a purposeful game to squirrel away land for a selected few. Wilderness protects land for all creatures, including humans. I feel sad that some people consider only their own special recreational interests and apparently forget about how important clean air, clean water, biodiversity, and good wildlife habitat are to our communities and our visitors. Please think of our wild places and how keeping them wild and primitive benefits us all.
Let’s work together to come up with a good wilderness proposal for our Congressional delegation to introduce in Congress.
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