Do wilderness areas need buffer zones?

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The Eagles Nest Wilderness in Colorado.

Researchers propose new ways to limit impacts

Staff Report

FRISCO — A growing population and increasing development may be threatening the ecological integrity of some wilderness areas in the U.S.

Protecting those areas may require establishing buffer zones to limit the impacts, according to University of Georgia researchers who took a close look at development trends near public lands. Continue reading

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.

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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.

Time to hike — tomorrow is National Trails Day

Hiking in to a backcountry wilderness camp in the Eagles Nest Wilderness, Gore Range, Colorado.

Frisco resident Leigh Wadden hikes along a trail in the Eagles Nest Wilderness in the Gore Range, part of the White River National Forest in Colorado.

Around the country, more than 200,000 miles of trail are waiting

By Mike Matz

FRISCO — June 6 is National Trails Day, an ideal time to grab your pack and head to your favorite spot in nature. It is fitting that this day falls toward the beginning of Great Outdoors Month, which is observed every June, and celebrates America’s wide-open spaces from coast to coast.  The proclamation aptly states:

“During Great Outdoors Month, Governors, communities, business leaders, and organizations will host thousands of events across the country to celebrate our unparalleled outdoors… As we enjoy these magnificent places, let us rededicate ourselves to doing our part to preserve them for all our future explorers, adventurers, and environmental stewards.”

Helping Americans get into those areas are roughly 200,000 miles of trails. They can be accessed in the forests of Tennessee, the wild coasts of California, and the mountains of Idaho, and in thousands of other places across the nation.  And they are enjoyed by people of all ages and walks of life. Continue reading

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

Cherished Colorado areas at risk as House GOP seeks to strip funding for National Conservation Lands

Budget cutting would threaten robust recreation economy

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An arch in Colorado’s Rattlesnake Canyon, part of the system of National Conservation Lands. Photo courtesy BLM.

Staff ReportFRISCO — House Republicans are continuing their nearly relentless attack on public lands with a threatened move to take away funding for more than 30 million acres of National Conservation Lands, including popular Colorado areas like the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area and McInnis Canyons NCA.Gutting the budget for the National Conservation Lands threatens access to public lands that drive the nation’s outdoor economy and provide a livelihood for many Westerners.

The push by the House Resources Committee is at odds with President Obama’s budget, which recognizes these lands are underfunded and proposes an increase in funding. Dozens of national monuments and national conservation areas across the West—places like Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, just outside of Las Vegas — would have to shut their doors. 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

Obama pushes for Arctic National Wildlife Refuge protection

Conservation plan proposes 12 million acres of new wilderness

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The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on Alaska’s North Slope.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A far-reaching conservation plan for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska would designate 12 million acres of new wilderness, including critical wildlife habitat along the coastal plains that are home to vast herds of caribou.

On the White House blog, John Podesta and Mike Boots directly addressed the potential threat and disastrous consequences of a major oil spill in the region.

President Obama said he will make an official recommendation to Congress to designate core areas of the refuge – including its Coastal Plain – as wilderness, the highest level of protection available to public lands. Watch the President discuss the announcement here.

If Congress chooses to act, it would be the largest ever wilderness designation since Congress passed the Wilderness Act more than 50 years ago — but that’s highly unlikely with GOP control of Congress. In fact, Alaska’s pro-development lawmakers have already over-reacted by characterizing the announcement as a war on Alaska’s future, according to the Alaska Dispatch News, which has the best coverage of the story. Continue reading

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