Trish Holcroft: Hidden Gems unsafe
With the growing threat of catastrophic wildfires, due to the mountain pine beetle infestation, it is unconscionable for the Hidden Gems (HG) Campaign to be proposing wilderness designation for so much of Eagle and Summit counties. The HG Campaign itself acknowledges “extensive impact from the mountain pine beetle in recent years.” Especially “…Summit County, where many communities and neighborhoods lie near or in the forest and near the wilderness proposal areas.”
The Wilderness Act of 1964 and documents supporting the proposed Hidden Gems all have a clear intent of “fire control,” but no fire prevention. A wilderness designation would impact the Forest Service and our local fire district’s ability to prevent wildfires through programs like fuel mitigation and forest treatments.
We have seen valiant efforts by our government officials to reduce wildfire risks; including Governor Ritter’s “Colorado Healthy Forests and Vibrant Communities Act” and the USDA announcement in Dec. 2009; “U.S. Forest Service will commit an additional $40 million to address public safety concerns and forest health needs arising from the millions of acres of dead and dying trees from bark beetle infestation in the West.” Our own Senator Gibbs and State Rep. Scanlan just testified in Washington in support of a bill which “would enable the Forest Service to better protect communities and watersheds from catastrophic wildfire in anticipation of the upcoming fire season.”
Hidden Gems is directly contrary to these efforts and jeopardizes the safety of our communities. Our fire risk will only increase over the next five years once all the lodgepole pines are dead and standing. Let’s not tie the hands of the people who can protect us. The Hidden Gems proposal has been given to Congressman Polis; it’s not too late. Please email him your feedback today at firstname.lastname@example.org
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