Colorado environmentalists urge support for wilderness bill

Apr 22, 2011

Hidden Gems organizations back Eagle and Summit County Wilderness Preservation Act

Four major Colorado environmental groups today praised Congressman Jared Polis for his leadership in introducing legislation that would protect more than 160,000 acres of public lands in Eagle and Summit Counties.

“Congressman Polis has worked hard to gather citizen input and craft a wilderness proposal that reflects the desires and needs of his district,” said Steve Smith, assistant director of The Wilderness Society in Colorado. “He has created a proposal that deserves to be moved through Congress with bipartisan support.”

Rep. Polis announced reintroduction of the Eagle and Summit County Wilderness Preservation Act on Earth Day, April 22, 2011.

The Wilderness Society, Colorado Environmental Coalition, Wilderness Workshop and Colorado Mountain Club—the four groups that comprise the Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign—are urging their members and the public at large to support the Polis proposal. They note the overwhelming public backing for more wilderness, as shown in polling last year that found 72% of voters in Rep. Polis’s district favor protecting additional public lands as wilderness in Colorado. Additionally, County Commissioners in both Summit and Eagle counties have written official letters in support of the wilderness proposal.

Once passed into law, it will result in significant additions to the Eagles Nest, Ptarmigan and Holy Cross Wilderness Areas in Eagle and Summit counties, which are part of the Second Congressional District that he represents. The legislation also protects a number of new standalone areas either with wilderness designation or, in areas where military helicopter training occurs, special management status with wilderness-quality land protection that also ensures training can continue.

“As Colorado’s population increases and pressure on our backcountry grows, common-sense proposals like this one from Congressman Polis will ensure wild places remain available to the public,” said Bryan Martin, director of conservation at the Golden-based Colorado Mountain Club, Colorado’s premier outdoor recreation organization. “As outdoor enthusiasts and recreationists, we applaud this effort,” he added.

The Eagle and Summit County Wilderness Preservation Act comprises areas in the White River National Forest and surrounding Bureau of Land Management lands that have been identified by federal authorities
as appropriate for wilderness designation. It also includes additional wilderness-quality roadless lands identified through years of work by local conservationists.

Hidden Gems advocates are particularly excited with the prospect of securing protection for places like Castle Peak north of Eagle, Red Table Mountain between Gypsum and the Fryingpan River and Spraddle Creek outside Vail. Wilderness designation is valuable to recreationists and local economies for its ability to preserve clean air, water, wildlife and outdoor business opportunities.

“We urge all members of Colorado’s congressional delegation to quickly get behind this effort and work for prompt passage of this legislation,” said Kurt Kunkle, wilderness campaign coordinator for the Colorado Environmental Coalition.

“This is a great step forward in protecting our most treasured landscapes in this part of Colorado. said Sloan Shoemaker, executive director of the Wilderness Workshop. “Please, call, e-mail or write the Congressman and our Senators with your support.”

-30-

For more information:
Rep. Jared Polis’ proposed Eagle and Summit County Wilderness Preservation Act -
http://polis.house.gov/Wilderness/

Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign –
www.whiteriverwild.org

For additional assistance, or for photos and video roll, please contact Allyn Harvey at (970) 618-2342