Letters: Support for new Colorado wilderness

Will Congress act?

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A view of the Gore Range from the flanks of the Williams Fork Range, at the edge of a new wilderness area proposed by Congressman Jared Polis. @bberwyn photo.

wilderness-map

A map of the areas covered by the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act.

FRISCO — In May, Congressman Jared Polis reintroduced a bill to create about 39,000 acres of new wilderness in Summit and Eagle counties.

According to Polis, the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act will help sustain recreational resources, protect watersheds, preserve important wildfire corridors, and strengthen Colorado’s tourism economy.

Along with new wilderness, the bill would also designate 16,000 acres as special management areas for recreation, and where some other activities, including wildfire mitigation and forest health treatments would be permitted.

Trace the history of Polis’ push for new wilderness in the central Colorado mountains in these Summit Voice stories going back to 2010.

Letters:

Dear Editor,

Congressman Jared Polis’ introduction of the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act should be applauded. This bill, the result of 5 years of local community engagement and consensus, is important not just to the central Rocky Mountains but to Colorado as a whole. Many Coloradans know this area for the endless recreational opportunities, whether it’s hiking, biking, camping, hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, or just relaxing. As the owner of Seymour Lodging Corp, Colorado wilderness is of particular importance to me.

Owning a small business is never easy, particularly when your business is dependent on external factors such as weather and consumer discretionary income. Fortunately for myself and many other small business owners across the state, the designation of wilderness, in addition to enhancing quality of life, makes local tourism a little more secure.

The Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act protects many areas in the White River National Forest, which draws more than 9 million visitors annually; these visitors then support local tourism and outdoor recreation businesses.

The outdoor recreation industry in Colorado is a critical part of the state’s economy which generates $13.2 billion annually in consumer spending, and supports 125,000 jobs which pay over $4 billion in wages to Coloradans. Many small mountain towns count on tourism and outdoor recreation to stay afloat. I know personally how difficult this can be, and I would like to thank Congressman Polis for investing in the state of Colorado.

Richard Seymour

***

Dear Editor,

After reading about the recent introduction of the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act, I wanted to publicly thank Representative Jared Polis for his work protecting Colorado. As an avid hiker, I deeply enjoy spending free time in the Central Mountains.

Over the past 5 years Rep. Polis has worked with a plethora of local stakeholders to ensure that this legislation truly helps to support the local community- this hard work has paid off, garnering the support of everyone from mountain bikers and conservationists to hunters and small businessmen.

If passed, the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act would provide important protections for key watersheds in the Central Mountains and safeguard our ever-valuable Colorado water for local communities and the greater Front Range. As well, the Act would protect some of Colorado’s best fishing streams and preserve valuable wildlife habitat; thank you, Representative Polis!

Eddie Welsh

Eddie Welsh is history and political science major at Colorado State University.  He has a special interest in environmental issues here in Colorado, particularly in the Central Mountains where he spend a great deal of  time.

New push for Colorado wilderness expansion

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New wilderness is in the works for Eagle and Summit counties, in the mountains of Colorado.

Congress Jared Polis introduces land protection measure

Staff Report

FRISCO — A proposal for new Colorado wilderness areas is back on the political table in Washington, where Congressman Jared Polis introduced a new bill that ‚ if passed, would add more than 39,000 acres of land to the wilderness roster.

“The areas that stretch along the Continental Divide in Summit and Eagle counties are the iconic playground of our state,”  Polis said. “They are where Coloradans and out-of-state tourists alike go to ski, hike, mountain bike, hunt, and fish … and this bill will ensure they are preserved for future generations to enjoy,” he added. Continue reading

Jared Polis to serve on House Resources Committee

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Congressman Jared Polis.

Colorado lawmaker expected to be a pro-environment voice on a panel led conservative Republicans who often undermine federal efforts to manage public lands on the behalf of all Americans

Staff Report

FRISCO — A languishing proposal to create new wilderness areas in the Colorado mountains may get a boost in Congress this year, as U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (CO-02) joins the House Natural Resources Committee.

In the last two years, the committee has been a bastion of anti-government rhetoric, in some cases considering bills that would significantly weaken protection for natural resources and public lands. As a member of the minority, Polis won’t be able to get any meaningful legislation passed on his own, but his pro-environmental voice will be a welcome addition for public lands advocates. Continue reading

Colorado wilderness bills bottled up in Congress

Half a dozen proposals for land protection span more than 1 million acres

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Proposed new wilderness areas include open meadows on the west flank of the Williams Fork Range. bberwyn photo.

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The proposed Acorn Creek wilderness addition would add important wildlife habitat to the existing high-elevation Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness Area.

By Bob Berwyn

*Click here to learn more about this weekend’s hike in proposed new Summit County wilderness area

SUMMIT COUNTY — There may be a huge backlog of wilderness bills in Congress, but conservation advocates aren’t about to give up on their efforts to preserve public lands in Colorado. Read more about the political wrangling over wilderness in this Summit Voice story.

In fact, the recent oil and gas boom on the Western Slope has recharged wilderness protection efforts, as supporters rally around the new “equal ground” theme, asking President Obama and Congress to protect at least as many acres as are allocated for energy development.

Along with being ecologically important, protected areas are increasingly seen as critical to the region’s recreation economy. Protected areas also enhance property values in adjacent communities.

In Colorado, there are six proposals that would expand wilderness by more than 1 million acres. The biggest is U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette‘s Colorado Wilderness Act, which includes 31 areas for a total of 750,000 acres, including many chunks of mid-elevation lands that are crucial for wildlife. Continue reading

Udall: Wilderness is a ‘great economic engine’

Eagles Nest Wilderness, Summit County, Colorado. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Local meeting set to take input on latest wilderness plan

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Local residents will have a chance to weigh in and ask questions about the latest version of a plan to add big chunks of new wilderness in Summit County this week, when members of Sen.Mark Udall’s staff  hold office hours in Breckenridge (3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Colorado Mountain College).

The session is aimed at connecting constituents with staffers who can answer questions, show constituents draft maps of the proposed areas, and start gathering public comment on the plans for the Central Mountains wilderness (Summit, Eagle and Pitkin counties) and the Arkansas River Canyon and Browns Canyon (Chaffee County).  The public is invited to attend these office hours.

The wilderness plan started out as a citizen-driven initiative, as volunteers worked to identify areas that may meet wilderness standards. It became the Hidden Gems proposal, then later was modified slightly and shaped into a legislative proposal by Congressman Jared Polis. Continue reading

Opinion: High country businesses support wilderness

Economic benefits of quiet recreation are profound

Wilderness is good for business.

By Josh Lautenberg

Senator Mark Udall is right on target when he talks about the value of protected wilderness for our local economy.

Here in Vail, and in places like Aspen, Snowmass Village, Eagle and Breckenridge, our economy has prospered over the years in large part because of its location in the heart of the Colorado Rockies.

So how does wilderness support the economy?

Because of their famous majesty and beauty, the Rocky Mountains attract visitors from around the world. Think of all the people who can’t wait to leave behind the noise and pollution of the city to come here for their week or two in the mountains. To be able to smell the fresh air and stare at the perfect Colorado blue skies. Continue reading

Sen. Udall sets wilderness info meeting in Avon

Gore Range, Eagles Nest Wilderness Area.

Public comments wanted

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Sen. Mark Udall’s staff this month will start taking public input to help shape a possible wilderness bill that could encompass many parcels of land previously included in the grassroots, citizen-driven Hidden Gems wilderness campaign, as well as a House bill introduced by Rep. Jared Polis.

The first meeting is set for March 14 at the Avon library (3 p.m. to 5 p.m.). Another meeting is planned for later in the month in Summit County, where there has already been an extensive collaborative stakeholder process to discuss potential wilderness additions and other specially designated recreation and conservation areas.

Udall has said his wilderness effort will be a community-driven process that could also result in designation of the Arkansas River Canyon as a national monument and Browns Canyon as a new wilderness area.

Udall met with business community leaders in Eagle County this week to get some additional input. He has touted the wilderness and monument designations as a benefit to the state’s recreation economy.

Draft maps and other information on the proposals are online at Udall’s website.

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