Colorado’s White River National Forest: Wild areas one step closer to protection

Colorado’s White River National Forest and its rushing rivers, shaded forests and snowcapped mountains are a beloved destination for skiers, hikers, wildlife watchers, fisherman and others seeking adventure or solitude in quintessential Colorado country.

Now these stunning White River areas could get lasting protection under a bill to be reintroduced by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO).  His “Eagle and Summit County Wilderness Preservation Act” will protect 167,000 acres of wild spaces in the greater White River National Forest region of central Colorado.

Included are such popular places as the jagged spires of Castle Peak north of Eagle, the wildlife-rich Red Table Mountain between Gypsum and the Fryingpan River, the awesome alpine terrain of the Tenmile range in Summit County, and the popular recreation area of Spraddle Creek near Vail – to name just a few.

The area is well known to tourists who visit the many ski areas like Vail and Breckenridge along I-70.   The forest offers adventure and spectacular views to visitors, skiers and hikers.   Hunters and anglers know firsthand that these pristine lands provide the best habitat for fish and wildlife.  Local residents value the clean air, pure drinking water and spiritual rejuvenation these areas naturally provide, and the affected towns and counties know that their economic sustainability is based on the scenic vistas that draw tourists and outdoor recreation enthusiasts from around the state, country and world.

Wilderness legislation is never easy.  This legislation is the culmination of years of effort by conservationists meeting with citizens, communities, user groups and decision makers to craft the Hidden Gems wilderness proposal, which calls for protection of some 380,000 acres of wild places within the region.

Congressman Polis’ legislation would protect a major portion of the Hidden Gems proposal that falls within his district.  Other Hidden Gems proposal lands lie in the district of Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO), and we’ll be working to encourage him to introduce legislation covering the wild places in his district.

Meanwhile, in order for Polis’ legislation to move forward, a companion bill must be introduced in the Senate.  If you’re a Colorado resident, be sure to contact Senators Mark Udall (D-CO) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) to introduce and promote the “Eagle and Summit County Wilderness Preservation Act” in the Senate.