Town of Breckenridge endorses Hidden Gems | SummitDaily.com

Town of Breckenridge endorses Hidden Gems

JULIE SUTOR
summit daily news

BRECKENRIDGE – The Town of Breckenridge has put its weight behind the Hidden Gems Wilderness Proposal – a conservation plan that would provide wilderness protections for hundreds of thousands of acres of White River National Forest land.

In a letter to U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, Mayor John Warner said the town “can officially endorse the wilderness-specific boundaries that have been arrived at.” The town urged that any legislation advancing the proposal include “companion designation,” or wilderness buffers in which motorized recreation and resource extraction would be prohibited, but mountain biking and fire-protection work would be allowed. The companion areas had originally been proposed for wilderness designation, but they were withdrawn from the proposal in light of concerns from fire-protection officials and the mountain-biking community.

“It was a good process, a collaborative process. A lot of people came to the table, and it created a higher level of protection for the Upper Blue Valley,” Warner said.

The town’s endorsement of Hidden Gems comes in addition to a petition in support of the proposal signed by 244 Breckenridge residents.

The Hidden Gems Wilderness Proposal seeks federal wilderness designation for about 43,000 acres of federal land in Summit County and for 379,000 total acres in Summit, Eagle, Pitkin and Gunnison counties combined.

The town’s endorsement of the proposal was specific to the Hoosier Ridge (4,560 acres) and Tenmile (13,240 acres) parcels, which sit on either side of the headwaters of the Blue River, at the southern end of Summit County. Earlier this year, the town had raised concerns about its ability to fight wildfires in areas with wilderness designation and about the effects of wilderness designation on mountain-bike trail systems.

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“The Hidden Gems Wilderness Proposal has been adjusted since that time to address many of these issues. The boundaries of the proposed wilderness now largely match that of the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) boundaries, helping alleviate town concerns and those of the Red, White and Blue Fire Department regarding proactive fire mitigation, fire suppression and post-fire watershed protection efforts in the Upper Blue Basin,” Warner wrote.

“Further, many mountain-bike trails in the town and county trail master plans, along with those identified as important by user groups such as the Summit Fat Tire Society, have been excluded from wilderness designation,” Warner added.

Julie Sutor can be reached at (970)

668-4630 or jsutor@summitdaily.com.

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