Letter: Protect public lands
In the new year, we must not take our public land resources for granted. The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District of the White River National Forest covers the entire Roaring Fork watershed, five wilderness areas, five ski areas, the Maroon Bells recreation area, the Crystal Mill and hundreds of miles of beautiful trails and roads.
Recent years have recorded record growth in visitation on the forest and record drops in federal budget to maintain and patrol these forest lands. The people who work for the U.S. Forest Service at the local level are hardworking, dedicated people who deeply believe in caring for the land and serving the people. However, the reality of shrinking budgets at the federal level leaves those land managers to make some difficult decisions.
Some of those difficult decisions include some possible changes to some very popular and very accessible locations in the forest. Dinkle Lake at the foot of Mount Sopris, Avalanche Creek south of Carbondale and the property known as the “Boneyard” along the Roaring Fork River in El Jebel could all possibly have serious changes in management or ownership in the coming years.
In this time of change at the new year, we should look at this opportunity to improve the access and quality of our public lands. We are lucky to have a caring and passionate community in this valley when it comes to our public lands. I believe that the USFS along with state and local governments as well as our volunteer and nonprofit groups can keep all of these lands accessible and maintained now and into the future.
This new year and new administration should be a rally call to all who care about their lands. We can no longer sit back and presume that the government will take the best care. It is now the time that we need to be active to protect our lands. As the first chief of the Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, said, “The vast possibilities of our great future will become realities only if we make ourselves responsible for that future.”