Letter-writing campaign by motorized users spreads misinformation about wilderness plan; most motorized areas have already been removed from proposal
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — A propaganda campaign by motorized users to discredit a plan to expand Colorado wilderness areas has apparently been partially effective. Motorized users represent only a tiny fraction of all visits to the White River National Forest, yet they have access to areas that are far greater in size proportionate to their numbers.
Through a steady stream of letters to regional newspapers, they’ve created the perception that the Hidden Gems campaign aims to outlaw motorized recreation on a large scale or to close favored motorized areas. Some newspapers have reinforced the inaccurate perception by parroting assertions made by motorized users as fact, rather than checking into the details of the proposal. Large areas of national forest land have already been removed from the Hidden Gems plan to address concerns of motorized users.
Staffers with Congressman Jared Polis’ office said they noticed the misconception about motorized areas during a recent community forum on the Hidden Gems plan in Boulder, where about 180 people turned out to discuss the plan.
After the meeting, Lara Cottingham, communications director for Polis, distributed an e-mail to try and address some of the most common misconceptions that were raised at the Boulder meeting. A local forum is set for 12 p.m. today (June 4) at CMC in Breckenridge.
“In reality, virtually all popular motorized areas that had been in the proposal have been removed, and the Hidden Gems coalition continues to make adjustments and concessions every day,” Cottingham said. “Identifying any popular motorized areas is one of Congressman Polis’ central goals of these community forums. He understands that enjoying our amazing state can be done in many ways, from hiking in solitude to long-distance ATV trips, and that all of these forms of recreation mean a great deal to individuals and families alike.”
Cottingham said Polis is working to identify any areas where conflicts may exist and is taking input from motorized groups, including the White River Forest Alliance and Colorado Snowmobile Association.
Cottingham also said some people at the Boulder meeting believed that the Hidden Gems proposal has been finalized. But the fact is that there are still ongoing adjustments being made, and the Polis won’t submit formal legislation until he’s made every effort to resolve outstanding disputes among various stakeholders.
Cottingham also made it clear the current proposal under discussion only covers national forest lands in Summit and Eagle counties, and that Polis has not endorsed the proposal in its current form.
Filed under: Environment, forests, public lands, Summit County Colorado, US Forest Service, White River National Forest Tagged: | Hidden Gems, Summit County, Summit County Colorado, Summit County News, White River National Forest, wilderness