April 22, 2010
To call the Hidden Gems (HG) plan as it was submitted last week to our U.S. representatives a true proposal is not accurate. It presents itself more like a marketing campaign. We would have expected something more substantial for what it is trying to accomplish. We hope that our state representatives will have the sense to see it for what it is.
This campaign is based on very narrow viewpoints of Wilderness advocates with little input from a much broader and balanced perspective from the general public. Throughout the 128-page HG plan for Summit/Eagle counties, there is no substantial evidence regarding the claims they are making for why these areas need Wilderness designation.
What’s the point of the HG when there is a Travel Management Plan (TMP) currently in process by the U.S. Forest Service? This TMP allows for thoughtful management and protection of the White River National Forest. Through 12 years of collecting data with regard to environmental and economic impacts, the WRNF has recommended, within its TMP, 82,000 acres for Wilderness designation. It has been in process since 1998 and has been designed to assess how we best utilize and manage our public/forest lands with respect to wildlife, forest health, watershed, conservation and uses within the forest.
The Hidden Gems campaign proposes an inappropriate amount of public forest lands to Wilderness designation without accountability, process, oversight and foresight. What do these terms mean in the context of the Hidden Gems campaign?
Process: The Hidden Gems campaign has no formal protocols for public input and NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) processes. This campaign does not have any legitimate data, i.e. no environmental or economic impact studies associated in its proposal as to why it should exist.
Accountability: It is a simple campaign serving the personal objectives and ideology of a private interest group who have shown no substantial proof or plan as to what it will take to implement, maintain and enforce a Wilderness designation of this magnitude.
Oversight: There are no proven methods, processes or recommendations within their proposal for how these vast areas of forest lands proposed for Wilderness designation will be managed in the face of drought, fire, beetle infestation, noxious weeds, etc., not to mention the effects of aforementioned items on watershed.
Foresight: Our world is changing. There is no process or plan in place in this campaign as to how these lands will be managed with regard to the effects of climate change, population growth and community needs.
As representatives of the Colorado Backcountry Trail Riders Alliance, we support the stance the White River Forest Alliance is now taking in their opposition to the Hidden Gems due to premature submission of an inappropriate proposal to Colorado state representatives. The CBTRA has worked for several years to advocate responsible motorized use within the White River and Gunnison national forests. We will continue to work with the White River National Forest TMP teams in their recommendations for Wilderness and alternative designations.
Traci Schalow, Mike Thuillier, David Anderson