Letter: Way of life threatened
Let’s talk way of life, let’s talk culture, let’s talk the Western Slope mentality, let’s talk recreation, let’s talk about the Western economy, and let’s talk about the challenges of the middle class in western Colorado.
I believe I have a window on this world. I grew up living in Basalt, Collbran, De Beque, Gypsum and Glenwood. My childhood was a rural experience, construction experience and finally my 41 year career in business.
For someone with my experiences, it is distressing to see what is happening to the western Colorado way of life and culture.
The alarm bells are ringing in my ears whenever I hear of another favorite hunting spot off limits because someone with a lot of money decided to close traditional access to public lands. I cringe when any new roadless initiative is launched. Worse is when a government or conservation entity decides to block a Forest Service road. The culture we have long cherished is under attack because some Chicken Little says the sky is falling.
Recreation is a term with many applications; Recreation could mean a softball field to some, a bicycle trail, a Jeep trail or a boat launch. I think we have room for all of it. Seventy percent of our Western lands are national lands. Recreation can exist on the valley floor until there is no more valley floor. There is an alternative to valley floor recreation. Experience the wonders of nature, explore and enjoy the awesome mountains and plateaus, don’t lock it up.
NIMBYs have moved in, found Shangri-La and now want to lock it up. Money (some public) is behind the flood of conservation easements, a pretty good scam; owners sell it and still have it. The only losers are citizens who paid for it and lost access to it.
I have experienced the wonderful, diverse and restorative power of nature, I see forest where there once was none, I see vast quantities of wildlife where none were before. I see an ecosystem robust and viable. Someone somewhere decided they knew more about the life force of the Earth and decided to help. They are not helping.
The Western economy has been fluid, with boom and bust. Yet we still find a way to prosper. Recreation and tourism are economic generators; however they provide low-quality jobs for the middle class. We need to further diversify if we are to obtain a true cross section of population; we should not shun development, because without it our children will not be able to afford to stay in the valley.
The Western Slope lifestyle is in trouble. New residents are bringing their culture to supplant the one already here. We must be diligent in defending our culture and lands. Be sure to vote for politicians who know and honor our Western heritage.