Modified versions of this letter have been sent to both Colorado U.S. senators, Congressman Salazar and the Delta, Pitkin, Gunnison, Eagle, Mesa, Summit and Garfield County commissioners
It is ironic that the Hidden Gems Wilderness Proposal is named so appropriately by the organizers, because if approved that is exactly what will happen for the overwhelming majority of citizens of the state of Colorado and of this nation. The gems that we all are free to enjoy will be hidden from the masses. The most popular ways to access these gems will be taken away without regard to one’s physical well-being or one’s personal choice on how to enjoy public land. This is not what freedom is all about, and it is not why our past leaders set aside this public land. Public lands are for all people to enjoy and appreciate, not just for the few that wish to hike or horseback ride.
The fact is that the vast majority of the people who enjoy these areas in ways other than hiking or horseback riding are very good stewards of the land. Because a person chooses to ride an ATV, snowmobile, or drive a jeep into the forest does not make them a criminal. It does not make them an enemy of the environment. Because it may not be the politically correct form of transportation does not make it wrong.
It is also a fact that many people who enjoy the public lands are unable to hike or ride a horse because of some type of disability or health issue; should their rights to this public land be taken away? We make laws to assist the disabled in all other aspects of life, but when it comes to establishing wilderness areas, we ignore and forget about the disabled.
When a small group of people and politically motivated organizations decide that they want to force their opinion onto the majority of the public, we all should think twice about what is happening. The U.S. Forest Service does an outstanding job managing all of these areas, and the fast track effort by the Hidden Gems group to shove the proposal through should tell us all we need to know.
My wife and I would like to say thank you to all the wonderful, dedicated volunteers of the Garfield County Search and Rescue who rescued us from what could have been a tragedy. We are in our late ’70s and got mired down in some deep unsettled powder with our snowmobiles on the Coulter loop trail. A friend saw our truck at the trailhead late in the afternoon and surmised something was not right. She sent word to Search and Rescue, and by 8:30 p.m. the sound of snowmobiles and lights appeared over the hill. What a relief. The team of rescuers gave up their family time to find and help us.
This team of volunteers is now faced with a insulting dossier requirement by our Garfield County “Gestapo Chief” sheriff. What a travesty to such a fine group of loyal volunteers.
Herb and Janet Weisbard
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