Colorado’s Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal rolls out

Hidden Gems, Colorado. Photo by Lisa Smith.

The Wilderness Society joined local conservation groups in Colorado this week to present a proposal to Colorado’s Congressional delegation to protect nearly 250,000 acres of wilderness quality land in Summit and Eagle Counties, Colorado.

These lands are a significant part of the wider Hidden Gems campaign, which will soon present wilderness proposals in Colorado’s Pitkin and Gunnison counties, bringing the total wilderness designation of the proposal to approximately 380,000 acres.

Unlike the majority of Colorado’s designated wilderness, Hidden Gems is unique for its protection of mid-elevation lands that provide a vital role as severe winter range for elk and other species and are home to Canada Lynx, black bear and mountain lion. These areas will also provide for greater habitat connectivity and ensure Colorado’s watersheds and backcountry landscape is protected for future generations.

Colorado’s congressional delegation will now consider next steps in response to this citizens’ proposal. In the meantime, the Hidden Gems campaign will continue to work with user groups, stakeholders and local governments to greater strengthen the wilderness proposal.

The Wilderness Society has worked tirelessly with conservation partners throughout the state to ensure full stakeholder involvement in the proposal planning and has reached out to many groups including landowners, ranchers, recreationists, watershed managers and local governments.

All of the lands in the completed Summit-Eagle portion of the proposal are located in either the White River National Forest or in nearby lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The areas proposed for protection include a number of standalone wilderness areas such as Castle Peak, which includes a signature rock formation overlooking the surrounding valleys. It contains a wide variety of critical habitat for species such as bighorn sheep, peregrine falcon and lynx and provides recreationists with great opportunity for solitude and challenge.

There are also several additions to existing wilderness areas such as Lower Piney, which will incorporate over 25,000 acres to the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness. This addition will be extremely important in the protection of a vital migratory route for wildlife such as elk and mountain goats.

Find out more about the Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign here!

photo: Hidden Gems, Colorado. Photo by Lisa Smith.