Tony Fisher: Hidden Gems proponents heavy-handed
White River Forest Alliance
In response to the recent news relating to Hidden Gems not making any additional adjustments to their boundaries for existing and historical recreation use, White River Forest Alliance (WRFA) is not surprised. The heavy-handed tactics of the Hidden Gems Campaign have shown themselves over and over, and this is another example of the same.
Steve Smith, Wilderness Society, said it best at the recent meeting in Edwards when asked about how much the campaign has to spend on the proposal, his comment, “Whatever it takes.” It would seem that this attitude of “whatever it takes” applies to the political and negotiating pressures as well.
WRFA has been working for months to point out the areas of direct impact that new Wilderness boundaries would have on existing and historical recreation areas. These areas include:
Summit County: In order of importance, Elliot Ridge, Hoosier Ridge, Porcupine and Ten mile.
Eagle County: In order of importance, Lower Pinney , Freeman Creek, Basalt Mountain, Spradle Creek and No Name
Our requests to boundary changes or companion designations were largely ignored by the Hidden Gems Campaign with small adjustments being made to Lower Pinney and Basalt Mtn/ Red Tables through our efforts. In April, when the campaign turned over their proposal to Congressman Jared Polis, WRFA was informed by Nissa Erickson, district representative for Congressman Polis, that further negotiations would be handled through the congressman’s office, and we have been working diligently through those channels since that time. We have been encouraged by the conversations with the congressman’s office and feel they are working to find the necessary balance for protecting recreation where it exists and additional land protection where it is deemed prudent.
Hopefully the public understands that the Hidden Gems Proposal is just that, a proposal for something that does not yet exist. The White River National Forest and the BLM lands included in the proposal already exist in a pristine condition and are protected and managed by the current U.S. Forest Service management plan.
The White River National Forest already includes 33 percent wilderness and another 30 percent protected by roadless areas, that is 63 percent of our forest being protected and off limits to much of the risk that the Hidden Gems claims.
The Hidden Gems campaign is made up of wilderness advocates that are paid to dream up new Wilderness areas for a living. Their well-funded propaganda machine plays on fears that the forest as a whole is being torn up. For those that travel into our forest, you know this is not the case, and while there may be small isolated areas of overuse, there are vast amounts of land that are rarely touched.
WRFA believes that wilderness is not the only option for protection and management of our scenic backcountry. We think we all can work together to find the right balance.
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