[fusion_text]Hidden Gems catches attention of Congressman, SkiCo and Pitkin BOCC
The 342,000-acre Hidden Gems Wilderness Proposal dominated headlines last month, as Congressman Jared Polis began a public input process to consider the possibility of legislation to protect some or all of the proposed wilderness in his district.
The Pitkin County Commissioners and Aspen Skiing Co. also spoke up on the proposal last month, with the commissioners asking for continued public outreach and SkiCo endorsing the proposal.
Rep. Polis, D-Boulder, held three meetings last month in his district, which includes Eagle and Summit Counties. All were well attended, with wilderness supporters outnumbering opponents by a ratio of 7-2 at the meeting in Boulder and 3-2 in Breckenridge. In Edwards, where nearly 600 people showed up, area newspapers estimated the crowd was split evenly.
Polis is optimistic a bill can be crafted from the 243,000 acres of proposed wilderness in Eagle and Summit Counties. He has not indicated how much of that acreage he is interested in protecting or whether he would propose legislation this year.
The Aspen Skiing Co. sent Polis a letter endorsing the entire proposal and urging him to enact the entire Hidden Gems proposal in Summit and Eagle Counties.
“The Aspen Skiing Co. has a long history of preserving open space and wild lands,” said Auden Schendler, the company’s sustainability director.
Sloan Shoemaker, executive director of the Wilderness Workshop in Carbondale, updated the Pitkin County Commissioners on the proposal’s progress in Pitkin and Gunnison Counties. Overall, there are about 100,000 acres of proposed wilderness in the two counties.
Shoemaker told the county commissioners that the campaign has removed half of the land it originally envisioned for protection in Pitkin County, primarily to accommodate snowmobilers, mountain bikers, climbers, ranchers and gas lease holders.
For Commissioner Jack Hatfield, the public outreach by Hidden Gems was enough for an endorsement. Commissioners Rachel Richards and George Newman were more guarded in their comments, urging the campaign to continue its outreach, while Commissioner Michael Owsley was concerned about the division it has created in the community.
Rep. John Salazar, D-Alamosa, is sponsoring wilderness legislation for lands in Southwest Colorado and has indicated he won’t take action this year on the Hidden Gems proposal for Pitkin and Gunnison counties, which are part of his district.[/fusion_text]