Colorado Mountain Bikers Push Wilderness Alternative

Post by blogger | September 4, 2009      

Around here in Colorado, groups of environmentalists are proposing a fairly major addition of Wilderness acreage. The “Hidden Gems” Wilderness proposal will eliminate a number of mountain bike trails as well as obviate numerous areas with terrific potential for superb mountain biking. Our local newspaper, the Sopris Sun, recently published a good article about this, synopsis below. What do you guys think? Do we have enough legal Wilderness — and it’s time for more recreation friendly yet still conservation oriented alternatives? Or should we just make ever more legal Wilderness? Where does it stop?

Local Mountain Bikers Push Wilderness Alternative
By Terray Sylvester
A mountain bike advocacy group is working to preserve mountain biking access in the face of formal wilderness designations proposed for more than 150,000 acres of local backcountry.

The Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, RFMBA‘, is proposing alternative designations for most of the public lands that the Hidden Gems campaign is seeking to protect in the Roaring Fork and Crystal River valleys.

RFMBA hopes those alternatives can protect the terrain in question from industry and motorized uses while leaving open mountain bike access…

“We’re doing our best to bring some realities to the table: I think a lot of people are not clear with the fact that [legally designated] wilderness equals no bikes,” said Mike Pritchard, a founding member of RFMBA. “For a tourist-based place where it’s all about recreation, this is just, it’s wild that we would consider bringing wilderness down so close to our towns.”

But the coalition behind the Hidden Gems Proposal says it cannot support such a broad departure from the formal protections offered by wilderness designation….

Sloan Shoemaker, executive director of the Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop – a member of the Hidden Gems campaign – said the coalition is open to further discussion about keeping specific areas open to mountain biking, but that “a blanket application of alternative designations for all of these landscapes is not something we’re willing to entertain.”

Personally, I like the legal Wilderness we have but am against making more. Instead, I’d like to see other methods of land management that are still conservation oriented but more recreation friendly. To that end, I write letters to the USFS and politicians asking that they not approve new Wilderness designations, but rather work with alternative management styles. Whatever your opinion about this, I encourage you to write letters!

If you want to advocate for mountain bike access to our remaining non-Wilderness Colorado backcountry lands, join the RFMBA.

Also, see the “Say No to Hidden Gems” Facebook Group.

(Some readers might wonder what this issue has to do with backcountry skiing. It’s huge because in many cases this “buffer zone” land just outside existing legal Wilderness is the only option for locating mountain huts. Make it into legal Wilderness; no more new huts. What’s more, it should always be mentioned that developing sport climbing areas is nearly impossible in legal Wilderness. Since such climbing areas are generally developed in “frontcountry” close to roads, and this new Wilderness takes much of such terrain, you can bet it’s locking up plenty of potential climbing areas.)


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78 Responses to “Colorado Mountain Bikers Push Wilderness Alternative”

  1. Brittany Walker September 4th, 2009 9:25 am

    Over here in Crested Butte we are fighting the same issues with some proposed Wilderness around Whetstone. It never seems to end, does it?

    I like the idea of Wilderness. There is no doubt that we need to preserve land for future generations. But, are we really preserving land when we let cows trample all over it? Going into the camp below Capital last fall, we passed through miles and miles of what felt much more like a cattle ranch instead of “Wilderness”.

    I would advocate Wilderness proposals more often if they didn’t limit mountain bike access. The fact that mountain bikes are excluded from Wilderness, while cows are allowed to graze, causing far more erosion than mountain bikes ever would, just doesn’t make sense to me.

    As Aspen is nearly blockaded by Wilderness on it’s southern side, here in Crested Butte we are blocked by northern Wilderness boundaries. Minus the cow-factor, I’m happy the Wilderness is there. But, we have enough Wilderness. All that would result from most of the proposed Wilderness in our areas is a change in usage- cutting out low-erosion users like mountain bikers and transferring the usage to ranchers grazing their cattle. It might make a few ranchers happy, but will make a larger group of trail users unhappy.

    Bottom line- I don’t think cows appreciate the mountains nearly as much as bikers 🙂

  2. ScottP September 4th, 2009 9:30 am

    The legal wilderness people are probably still under the impression that mountain biking destroys wilderness and trails, despite what the forest service has proved with extensive studies in the past decade.

    I think we’ve had this conversation before, but if you keep recreationalists out of the wilderness, they’re going to stop caring about preserving it. Sure, nature is intrinsically valuable, but no one will care if they’re not allowed to go in and enjoy it. Environmentalists are shooting themselves in the foot once again and giving the bird to a great many potential allies and supporters.

  3. Pat September 4th, 2009 9:45 am

    As a backcountry skier, mountain biker, occasional snow machiner, etc. I think that a “primitive area” (or whatever they want to call it) with no motorized equipment allowed is better than no protection at all. I see nothing wrong with having a mix: some wilderness with no mechanized equipment (even bicycles), some primitive areas with no motorized equipment, and some publicly owned areas where responsible use of motorized equipment is allowed too. I these days, we need all the advocates of wild places we can get. It’s better to join with our fellow human-powered recreationalists to save our favorite places than to lose them due to stubborn attitudes and hubris.

  4. Lou September 4th, 2009 10:06 am

    Lot’s of people are in denial about the fact that legal Wilderness is not totally protected or preserved. Really frustrating. Sheep, cows, eroded horse packing trails, crowds of outdoor education students, all allowed in legal Wilderness. Just none of those evil bicycles, thank you very much.

    In my view, the Wilderness advocates, at this point in history, would be much more effective placing their energy towards managing existing Wilderness than creating more and more ill will as they ask for more more more. For example, if they put all this energy into solving the snowmobile poaching problem, they could probably totally eliminate it.

  5. Randonnee September 4th, 2009 10:11 am

    Wilderness Designation concentrates and encourages more human recreational use into the Designated Wilderness, in my observation. Here in north central WA my family spends most of our time recreating in pristine non-Wilderness areas. We find solitude in these areas unlike the crowds encountered in the most-protected and Permit-limited areas such as the Enchantments. When we do enter Wilderness, we try to use off-trail routes and locations to avoid the hordes on the USFS corridor-Trails.

    The article above seems to describe similar pristine non-Wilderness Areas. I would advocate to stop motorized use and industrial use for these areas, but not Wilderness Designation. Wilderness Designation is elitist, it denies most people the use of Public Lands. The Administration of Wilderness, in my observation here, concentrates very heavy and damaging use in a thin corridor. Perhaps easier to Administer, but limiting the general use of the Public Lands.

    I am a motorized user, but my motorcycle remains parked because I peerfer mountain biking. My personal view is that best management is that motorcycles and snowmobiles should leave Roads only where Officially Designated. With either increased use or more horsepower, I believe that Trails open to motorcycles are being destroyed now unlike when I rode my motorcycle on USFS Trails 15 years ago. My recent view tilts toward motorcycles staying on roads, because of damage to our steep narrow Trails by motorcycles. Another problem that I encounter is horse use damage. Man, a small group of horsemen can stop for lunch at a pristine spot, and the result is bare spots where there were grasses on a dry slope and piles of manure that remain for a long time.

    In my view, the greatest threat to Public Use of Public Lands are the hordes of city folks crawling over the mountains, similarly dressed and equipped and lockstep in thought, while following and advocating the political enviro-mantras that actually are anti-human use dogma.

  6. Zach September 4th, 2009 10:17 am

    Thanks for posting this Lou. I wrote in to the paper about this regarding a very pro-Hidden Gems article they published a couple of weeks ago.
    I too am all for the wilderness we have, but that designation should be contained to select areas and not spread thin and watered down by bestowing that on areas that are already preserved by being largely inaccessible due rough topography or remoteness. A lot of the area in the Hidden Gems proposal is scrub oak and red dirt… they want to lump that into the same category as the Maroon Bells Wilderness? As you said, wilderness designation kicks out mountain bikers, but all the while allowing horses and cattle which we all know do more damage than a mountain bike. Hay Park is a prime example of that. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one against this moronic proposal.

  7. bj September 4th, 2009 10:39 am

    i think it’s a tough one, because on the one hand they want to protect these areas from oil and gas, mining, etc, and wilderness is the only designation they have that has never been reversed. On the other hand, I think it excludes too many recreation groups and agree there needs to be another category that protects land for recreation. Getting that designation through congress could take many many years though, so who wants to get started?

    Another thing to think about is that by making all these lands wilderness, they are probably increasing the likelihood that at some point wilderness designation will get revoked. Gonna have to pay for that national debt somehow…

  8. Lou September 4th, 2009 11:39 am

    Yeah, and in my view some gas/oil/mining isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Of course, I’m some sort of free thinking radical who should probably be punished for those heretical thoughts, just make sure my jail cell is heated, by natural gas, please :angel:

  9. Christian September 4th, 2009 12:50 pm

    I, too am all for wilderness, and more designations of truly wild landscapes, but this campaign goes way too far. Take a look at some of the proposed areas:

    No Name, Piney, Homestake, Spraddle, Castle Peak? You’ve got to be kidding me. These are incredibly popular (and impacted) multi-use zones which should hardly be candidates for legal wilderness designation.

  10. Randonnee September 4th, 2009 12:58 pm

    Lou I am with you as far as extractive use of Public Land, except that at this point in history it must be done only on previously roaded or mined areas. The obvious truth that is avoided these days is that the use of oil and gas and coal has directly allowed our wealth, health, and leisure and there is no equivalent alternative.

    We have fewer acres of pockets of non-Wilderness pristine Public lands than Wilderness, in my local observation. For me, these non-WIlderness pristine Lands have more value than Wilderness- they are accessible for Public use. Here in the PNW, instead of continuing to manage, for example, tree farms as they were before 1993, the formerly logged areas are unkempt, unmanaged, and prone to burn- a waste.

    The upside to not extracting our resources is that their value just increases for the day in the future when we will inevitable use them.

  11. Lou September 4th, 2009 1:05 pm

    My view is that semi-pristine or pristine backcountry is an important resource like any other, and should be managed accordingly, mostly in a conservation mode. Everyone, don’t get the idea I’m some kind of nut case who want to destroy the very places I love. I just try to be intellectually honest about the whole deal. It’s indeed true that if we just mine/extract from the present sacrifice zones, that’s probably all we need if we conserve and find alternate sources….

  12. sue September 4th, 2009 2:42 pm

    The problem with the Hidden Gems Proposal is that they are redefining what wilderness means – it is no longer areas that are “untrammeled by man” (Wilderness Act) or areas where “…the imprint of man’s work is substantially unnoticeable” (Wilderness Act).
    Now Hidden Gems is focusing on more middle elevation areas in the Aspen/Carbondale zone, areas where many of you recreate, many of you are out ‘trammeling’ , and in Summit County they are going after lands close to urban environments and lands adjacent to Highway 9 and I-70.
    I think its worth protecting some of these lands for wildlife habitat, but I believe that if they are going to redefine wilderness, then they better come up with a new set of rules. I used to think I would always support wilderness, but I do believe Hidden Gems is taking this a bit too far. Some of it I’m okay with, but much of it seems to be a bit of a stretch to call it wilderness.
    Alternative land designations, such as National Protection Areas (James Peak; Hood River…) do work. This designation protects the land from extractive industries but allows mountain biking.
    The ruling which prohibited mountain bikes from wilderness in 1984 was not based on one iota of science. Most of the negative myths of mountain bikes have been disproved.
    In fact, I believe that as a hiker/backpacker we do more damage to a wilderness area than one would on a mountain bike. I can hike anywhere I like – rocky steep trails are not a problem. ( If Wilderness ever did allow bikes, most of the trails would not be rideable.) I prefer to bushwack when I hike, sometimes tiptoeing through the wildflowers and I’ll follow animal trails which will probably someday turn into a human trail. I set up my tent in remote places far from existing trails and spend the night in lynx habitat. And wilderness attracts more hikers – they have the statistics to prove that.
    Please, write a letter to your congressmen, county commissioners and town councilmen. (I bet Hidden Gems website can give you all the addresses.) Here in Summit County we are realizing that because of our dying lodgepole forest, fire mitigation and watershed protection are top issues.

  13. Dave September 4th, 2009 3:10 pm

    I am a mountain biker as well as a backcountry skier. Although I see the point raised about wanting another designation other than Wilderness, I can say from a legal standpoint, the only designation that really matters is wilderness. The Forest Service can designate an area as Primitive in their land management plan, but that designation 1) allows for much more development than wilderness, and 2) is easily reversible with a forest plan amendment. This is at least my experience having worked as an environmental consultant for several years. There are lots of places to ride bikes, but in my opinion, in an urbanized and suburbanized world, never enough wilderness. I just wish, as others have expressed, that grazing was not allowed in wilderness. If there was a hard and fast legal designation that provided most of the protections of wilderness, yet still allowed some additional use, such as mountain bikes, I would support it. However, in reality there just isn’t.

    My two cents.


  14. Andrew September 4th, 2009 3:49 pm

    Randonnee: The fact that use is concentrated in certain areas has nothing to do with legal designation and everything to do with accessibility. What do Snow Lake, Granite Mountain, and Mount Si have in common? All are incredibly popular, and all are an hour away from 1 million people. Only Snow Lake is in the wilderness. There are 727,000 acres of Wilderness in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie national forest. ( If you can’t find solitude in that, you aren’t looking hard enough! I am grateful to “the hordes of city folks” who came before me and lobbied for the creation of the Alpine Lakes and NCNP. Before it, areas that I now enjoy today were being logged all the way to the present-day wilderness boundaries.

  15. sue September 4th, 2009 3:50 pm

    To Dave – When we talk about ‘Alternative Designations”, they will require an act of congress – just like wilderness – so from a legal standpoint, they are just as solid. We are talking about what you want – an alternative designation where its the same as wilderness but bikes are allowed. It is called a National Protection Area – (James Peak in CO; Hood River).
    Also – In thirty years of living in Summit County, I have never seen our local district make an area less restrictive. It is very difficult for the FS to do such a thing. For the most part, land designations are re-evaluated every twenty years or so with a new Forest Plan. Our latest forest plan of 2002 put more restrictions on land use in most of summit County.
    Lastly, there aren’t plenty of places to mountain bike at higher elevations – those gorgeous high alpine settings – because it is wilderness or too technical. Personally, I am not willing to give up anymore of these areas to the hikers and horsemen who have endless opportunities for this type of experience.

  16. Randonnee September 4th, 2009 10:24 pm

    Good points Andrew, but perhaps we are talking past each other. I would advocate to keep these remaining non-Wilderness pristine areas out of Wilderness designation, in order to preserve access and recreational use. Once there is Wilderness designation, one of the USFS tenets is to create a buffer, then we the landowners are kept back from good access to nice country. I live in Leavenworth and enjoy recreating in the Wenatchee Mountains- here is sunshine and often, solitude. The Alpine Lakes Wilderness (a portion of ALW is in the Wenatchee Mountains) is often full of folks, and strangely, for example, when we go to a place like Colchuck Lake in summer we have found everyone else- literally- 30 or 40 folks, from “Seattle.” They have a right to be there as much as anyone, but it is interesting how certain places get promoted or Designated -Wilderness and Enchantments Core Permit Area… a double whammy for marketing to the hordes! There is all sort of solitude away from the narrow corridor of maintained USFS Trails, we often try to go away from the known and maintained trails to avoid the hordes. There are entire Wilderness Trail systems abandoned by USFS that, if maintained, would disperse the use and offer more access to recreation for more folks. The USFS in recent decades shows preservationist intent, anti-human use intent, and denial of its Multiple-Use mission. In the day, I worked some jobs logging up to the Wilderness Boundary, too bad that occurred (because of railroad grants of land). Now, unfortunately, it seems that we are punished with miles of buffers of closed or deteriorated road systems through formerly logging-ravaged clearcut areas in the Forest which are seen as ‘buffers’, I am very certain, by modern USFS anti-human use preservationists. Wilderness designation is elitist and exclusionary of the Public’s use of Public Lands. Not to say that I am ungrateful for what Wilderness that we have, and appreciative of the efforts of my neighbors and others I know who fought for it. But every little piece of nice country should not be locked up as Wilderness- nor should it be logged, roaded, or mined, but it should be available for recreational use.

  17. Randonnee September 4th, 2009 10:27 pm

    Sue , a great point- “Personally, I am not willing to give up anymore of these areas to the hikers and horsemen who have endless opportunities for this type of experience.” I must say that if I were asked to choose between horses and mountain bikers, I would honestly choose mountain bikers as long as they stay on the Trail. Horse use is very damaging in my observation.

  18. Eric September 5th, 2009 7:57 am

    Wilderness designation is designed on an ecological preservation technique (sorry but I cannot remember the name) where access to an area is decreased in a concentric ring model, so that the center will remain wild.

    For this model, the preserved area must be large enough so that travel into the wildest middle is greatly limited. Note, that it does not have to be off limits or unreachable. If you allowed MTB, the area would have to be much larger to achieve the goal.

    I don’t know enough about the proposed areas to comment on whether they would be effective wilderness, but the model does not work in small areas or long narrow corridor type applications because access is not limited. However adding small strips to the boarders of existing wilderness can help to increase the effectiveness of the model. It is also the only realistic way to increase our wilderness acreage properly, since there aren’t undisturbed areas large enough to be effective.

    Speaking to the stats about increased use, if that use is limited to the outer rings, the model is working as intended.

    Whether you agree with this type of management, where access to public land is limited, is dependent more on ideology then ecology or erosion control.

    What does not make sense is grazing. That population pressure directly degrades the quality of the ecosystem and undermines the intent.

  19. Lou September 5th, 2009 8:39 am

    Eric, is that official USFS policy or something from an environmental organization? Or is it in the Wilderness Act legal words (I don’t recall seeing it there).

  20. Slave.To.Turns September 5th, 2009 10:28 am

    Always weird that this website has such a love for the outdoors, and such a vocal cry to open up the whole damn thing and open up the throttle.

    Protect and create more wilderness-you will never get it back once it starts be developed.

    As far as MTB usage goes, let’s be honest. These are not the steel framed Gary Fisher bikes that showed up in the 80s and had to legislated. We are in an era of 40+ lb DH bikes, fully suspended, ladder drops and everyone is a terrain park star. The bikes are tearing the sh*t out of trails, the riders are building aggressive trail features (most times, illegally) and more.

    Complex issue, for sure. But at the core, who would not want more protection for the land? Is your snowmachine or motorcycle or Jeep really that special we need to have wild lands available for you to tear it up? I don’t know.

  21. Randonnee September 5th, 2009 11:59 am

    Excellent point- “Complex issue, for sure. But at the core, who would not want more protection for the land? Is your snowmachine or motorcycle or Jeep really that special we need to have wild lands available for you to tear it up? I don’t know.”

    Agreed, that is the point. DH biking is a problem, I perhaps somewhat ignored those problems since I ride a light mountain bike Randonnee fashion- long tours in scenic country, very smoothly.

    Personally, I would see no problem in limiting snomos and motos to USFS roads except in specific play areas appropriately designated. I own one of each, and a Jeep.

    Access is the concern, as I described and as illuminated above. The real agenda, not even hidden, is anti-human use.

  22. Kai September 5th, 2009 1:42 pm

    Legal designated Wilderness is about much more than recreation. The Wilderness Act clearly defines the public purposes of Wilderness, of which recreation is just one of those. From the Act:

    “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and it’s community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain”

    “Wilderness areas shall be devoted to the public purposes of recreational, scenic, scientific, educational, conservation, and historic use”

    “an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization”

    “an enduring resource of Wilderness”

    “generally appears to have been affected primarilly by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable

    “has outstanding opportunities for solitude, or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation”

    The Wilderness areas, 109 milion acres in the US including AK, are the product of compromise. If some pre-existing uses had been given the boot; cattle grazing is a great example, we would not have the National Wilderness Preservation System, the greatest system of preserved areas in the world.

    Those who argue that the debate is about the kinds of uses, and the impacts of their particular kind of use that they like, or don’t like are a little off base. Comparing the impacts of horses vs mtn. bikes on trails is missing the point of what Wilderness is really about. Wilderness is about limiting ourselves. It’s about humility. It’s about leaving a few scraps of a planet that have not been wholesale modified by human action and technology. It’s about interacting with the landscape and natural world on a human scale, on a set of terms that maybe, just maybe, we can’t control. It’s not about the rush of sweet, zen-like single track that goes whoosing by. It’s not about thrills and spills (I LOVE to ride my mtn. bike, by the way) of mechanized adventure sports. It’s a place where we, as a society have, to the best of our ability, decided that it’s important to limit our technology as represented by mechanization, and motorization. Mechanization and motorization have dramatically, permanently altered the entire planet and it’s ecosystems in just a few hundred years. Wilderness represents a hope that maybe, just maybe we can do better. A reflection. A choice. It ain’t always t perfect or consistent (what is??) but I sure am glad those places exist, without mountain bikes.

  23. Lou September 5th, 2009 2:59 pm

    Yes, and the question is, where do we stop? Should the legal Wilderness start at our doorstep? Our bedside? And I wouldn’t call what we have “scraps,” we’ve got a ton of it.

  24. Kai September 5th, 2009 3:23 pm

    2.5 % of the entire land base of the United States, INCLUDING
    Alaska, are designated as the National Wilderness Preservation System.

  25. Eric September 5th, 2009 3:50 pm

    What I described above is an academic resource management model that focuses on sustaining a natural ecosystem.

    The point I hoped to make, was that the objection to MTB in wilderness is not their effect on trail erosion, or their environmental impact per say. It is that they increase the range of the user, thereby increasing the effect that man has on the wilderness.

  26. Lou September 5th, 2009 4:24 pm

    Kai, I guess it’s a glass half full or empty sort of thing, but 2.5 % sounds like quite a bit, and add to that all the National Parks and National Monuments… Not to mention that USFS non Wilderness land isn’t exactly going to be turned into shopping malls any time soon…

  27. john Gloor September 5th, 2009 5:17 pm

    I think it is important to remember where the wilderness areas are. They tend to be in the less populated western states where less land private. A number like 2.5% seems low but what percentage of public lands in Colorado are wilderness? I think the number goes up a bit. Compared to Iowa or Oklahoma or some other state which was homesteaded quite a while ago, we have a lot of wilderness, and public land in general

    I have to say I love our existing wilderness areas, but I oppose the new Hidden Gems proposal. They cluster wilderness areas all around the areas where I have recreated for years, and will leave very little multi-use lands near hear (Aspen where I live).

  28. Mike September 5th, 2009 5:28 pm

    Great discussion by all.

    It’s interesting to hear wilderness advocates throw around the “only 2.5% of our public lands are wilderness” statistic so often. The reality is that this is a local issue that affects our small town economies in a significant manner. Currently, 33% of the WRNF is designated as Wilderness. If the Hidden Gems Proposal passes in it’s current form, 46% of the forest will become designated Wilderness. Future Hidden Gems Proposal areas in the Flattops, north of Glenwood Springs, would increase this amount of Wilderness to 55% of the forests!

    Simply put, the HG Proposal is an aggressive campaign that has laid claim to large pieces of public land, prior to public comment. A majority of the areas are not designated as wilderness quality on the current US Forest Service land management maps.

    Wilderness designation is not the only tried and true tool that Congress has available for enhanced protection of our public lands. Alternate Designations, including National Protection Areas and National Recreation Areas have never been overturned by Congress. These tools allow for community input before being finalized, yet also close the door on extractive industries.

    If this proposal gets you all riled up, the best thing you can do is contact your County Commissioners and your Congress person (Salazar, Polis, or DeGette), and let them know how you truly feel about this Proposal. Don’t delay, forces are aligning to push this proposal through Congress this fall.

  29. Walt September 5th, 2009 5:58 pm

    Thought this was the land of the free. Big government is growing exponentially larger at a rate that will have us all standing in soup lines and pondering the audacity of hope. This is something that started with Bush and is growing out of control at an alarming rate.
    The biking around carbondale is awesome and I would hate to see this taken away by big gov control freaks.
    Has anyone paid attention to Bill Hanks and his nimby stance against the crystal river bike path. He claims that he is trying to save an orchid(that grows freely in the midwest and was brought here by settlers.)
    Speaking of biking, the cash for not doing the moonlight cruise (carbondale police dept paying $4 per person for not participating) was hillarious.
    Will the revolution be televised?

  30. john Gloor September 5th, 2009 7:38 pm

    Why isn’t wilderness pursued in Kansas? Could it be that no one wants to go there unless they are pheasant hunting harvested cornfields. For the effort and money spent, we could get some restored grasslands if a few hundred thousand acres of bankrupt farmlands were purchased and protected like the nature conservancy does. Very admirable and desirable considering there are few oasis’s of nature in the midwest. Making up to 46-55% of our public lands off limits to a lot of uses is less desirable to me. Just my opinion.

  31. Kai September 6th, 2009 6:31 pm

    There are currently 3.7 million acres of designated Wilderness in Colorado, or, about 3% of the total acreage of the state.

    Wilderness is not the right land allocation for every place; doing so threatens the integrity of the Wilderness Preservation System. But we all should fight for those places which are truly deserving, and seek alternatives for places which don’t quite fit because of existing uses or human impacts. It’d be nice if mountain bikers were able to broaden their horizons just a little bit, rather than seeing the whole world through the lens of their passions sometimes. We all need to do that more, including wilderness advocates.

  32. sue September 6th, 2009 7:09 pm

    Kai – This isn’t about wilderness, as much as it is about Hidden Gems and their definition of wilderness.
    So would you call an area that already has about 70 cars parked at the trailhead every weekend…wilderness? In the three hours of hiking to the summit you see hundreds of people? And a mile to the south, a mile to the north – not quite as crowded but still every weekend, 50 plus folks?
    Would you say that if you’re in a proposed Hidden Gems wilderness zone and there is a major highway at its base and a jeep road traversing the ridgeline a thousand feet above..that is wilderness? Or how about a trail where you see and hear I-70 the entire time?
    Hidden Gems is not going for the type of wilderness you describe.
    Also, you say (not the wilderness act though) that the debate isn’t on recreational experiences and impacts (oh, but hiking is okay, because you know how to enjoy wilderness since you’re not whooshing by).
    You say its all about ‘limiting your experiences.” But, it is okay for you to have no limits, to have no restrictions, and be able to backpack for a couple days, set up your tent in lynx habitat, tromp over flowers to get to the peak, ‘trammeling’ over fragile tundra day after day…but we can’t ride our bikes for a few hours, sticking to a trail and really having a lot less impact on the lands ? And this is because we, as mountain bikers, are not experiencing nature as you say, on a “human scale?” We’re just humans on bicycles. You’re a human in hiking boots.
    I’m a hiker/backpacker as well. It’s not uncommon for me to do a thirty plus mile overnight trip. Often my mountain bike rides are under ten miles.
    Mountain Bikers could actually be the user group “where man himself is a visitor who does not remain” (Wilderness Act).
    I do understand the value of leaving lands untouched, I really do. And I think it is great that there are plenty of trails too technical for mountain bikes, yet perfect for hikers. If bikes were allowed in all wilderness, only a small percentage of that terrain would be practical for mountain bikes.
    But again, this isn’t about wilderness as much as it is about Hidden Gems re-defining what is wilderness. Fine, but then it is also time to re-define the rules.

  33. Zach September 6th, 2009 9:57 pm

    Slave To Turns, I dont know where you’re riding… the lifts and downhill trails of Snowmass I guess. I dont know anyone who can pedal Hay Park on a 40lb downhill bike. Or Tall Pines. Or Cattle Creek. The trails we are speaking of most certainly are being used by the bikes equivalent to the weight of those from the 80’s, or LIGHTER. That was a stupid remark and just the kind of mentality I see at the root of the Hidden Gems campaign.

  34. Hans September 6th, 2009 9:58 pm

    A couple of people have mentioned that wilderness designation may keep us from accessing oil etc. From what I understand, land can’t be designated Wilderness if there are significant mineral resources in the area.

  35. john Gloor September 6th, 2009 11:59 pm

    Kai, the three percent number sounds small in the whole scheme of things. It is important to remember that the majority of the state is private land. Private lands don’t count as they will always be private and their usage is up to the owner or mineral rights owner. In another forum I read that 33% of the White river forest is wilderness. That is a more representative number to put on the public lands. Your usage of 3% is a disingenious misrepresentation of the numbers with an intent to make them smaller.

  36. Lou September 7th, 2009 3:28 pm

    I thank Kai being the voice of Wilderness appreciation. Thing is, he’s preaching to the choir. Myself and most (if not all) people commenting here love what we’ve got — it’s just that many of us simply to not want want this stupid “Hidden Gems” addition, which not only cheapens the concept of Wilderness, but takes out large areas of excellent recreation land that can easily be conserved by other means.

    Also, Kai mentioned we had the greatest system of preserved areas in the world. That’s a sophomoric take in my view, as the Antarctic Conservation Act protects 5,404,430.22 square miles… our legal wilderness in the U.S. (according to my calcs) is somewhere around 171,000 square miles. A postage stamp in comparison.

    Perhaps we should just make the whole United States into legal Wilderness, then we’d preserve 3,717,813 square miles — but — Antarctica would still be 1.5 times as big. I’m now feeling very inferior :angel:

    Just thought I’d put things in perspective here.

    Considering all that, one might ask if we need more Wilderness because we’re so far behind Antarctica? That would be an excellent example of a straw man argument that just distracts from the real point of this discussion… In my view we’ve got enough enough enough legal Wilderness. We need to use other land management tools to combine conservation with outdoor recreation. We have the tools, let’s just move on and use them.

    Sure, it’ll take some work to manage land that way. But guess what? If our existing legal Wilderness was expertly managed instead of pretty much ignored (which is why snowmobile poaching is out of hand, for example), doing that would take a lot of work and money as well.

  37. Lou September 8th, 2009 5:42 am

    I added a sentence to end of blog post about one of the issues that legal Wilderness presents to backcountry skiers — the fact that those buffer areas are where backcountry ski huts tend to be built, and if they’re made into legal Wilderness, then no more new huts… Just thought I’d clarify that for drop-in readers since after all, this is a backcountry skiing blog (grin).

  38. Tom September 8th, 2009 8:59 am

    The times are different from when the original wilderness designation was developed. Going places on a mountain/cross bike is much more common today than ever. I split my time between Aspen and Gunny and would love to have more options for commuting and believe everything thing should be done to encourage folks to get on the bike instead of driving. As it is, Taylor Divide is the only real route, Pearl from the Aspen side is a bitch (not so bad from CB), and Schofield is really only accessible from Carbondale/Marble. Talk about encouraging people to get in the car.

    In the travel mgmt plan for Gunnison a trail from Gunny to CB is hoped for, then there is the CB to Carbondale trail which has been started. Perfect examples of what i am talking about. Riding 50-100 miles is fairly common these days,it is 78 miles and 6k vert from Aspen to Gunny.

    The new definition of wilderness,IMHO, should include one bike trail per wilderness for commuting and should be retroactive. I.e. the areas between Gunnison and Aspen already in existence should have one trail added that bikers can use.

    Oh yea, lets drop in a few huts along the way so we can commute in the winter.

  39. Lou September 8th, 2009 9:27 am

    Tom, perfect!

  40. Cory September 8th, 2009 2:23 pm

    Black and white options:
    1) No public land…no problem
    2) Public land…foot and hoof traffic only
    3) Public land…total access (foot, hoof, ski, track, wheel, prop, flame thrower, etc.)

    Or go grey area and have people complain on where the line is drawn.
    So it goes.

  41. Lou September 8th, 2009 3:24 pm

    Cory, wrong, there is no such thing as total access where anything goes. We need to get off that mythology. The USFS land is HIGHLY regulated already, and more so all the time.

  42. Cory September 8th, 2009 3:41 pm

    Uhh….Lou….We also have public land so the first black and white option is out as well.

    It’s all grey area, thus the reason why there are so many responses. People want a line drawn. They just disagree on where to draw that line. So it goes.

  43. Lou September 8th, 2009 4:47 pm

    OK, point taken.

  44. Tom September 8th, 2009 6:30 pm

    The line is drawn by the people with money and good lobbying skills. The original wilderness plan excluded horses but the horse lobby stepped in and now we have horses. There was no bike lobby back then. Some people are going to get disappointed in any travel mgmnt plan, the most disorganized and poor are the ones that will lose.

  45. Chris September 9th, 2009 11:31 am

    Here’s a slightly different land use topic, in my backyard of the East side of the Cascades. The Forest Service is screwing over these people who have had cabins around Lake Wenatchee for almost 100 years, and now the Forest service is spiking rent of the land for the cabins. It’s a pretty screwed up system, and would truly frustrate me if I built a cabin there in the 1920’s.

  46. Lou September 9th, 2009 1:06 pm

    Chris, I was studying that exact issue a while back. Turns out there are thousands of private cabins on public land. More, there are thousands of driveways and roads into folks homes that are on USFS land under special use permit. Someone was telling me that everyone was just waiting for the other shoe to drop, when the USFS realized they were sitting on a massive revenue source provided they just started creeping up the cost for all this stuff. Right or wrong? Probably a mix of both. An interesting issue. Personally, I’d stay as far away from needing to use USFS land as I could get, as who knows where that sort of thing will be a few years from now…

  47. steveo September 10th, 2009 9:23 am

    Buy a good bike light and enjoy great night riding in your local wildrness. Problem solved! Just kidding (kind of).

  48. Lou September 10th, 2009 9:47 am

    Steveo, yeah, poaching might have been the answer at one time, when there were fewer people around and more of a live-let-live attitude and many folks felt that much of our legal Wilderness was just an artificial boundary created by a bunch of busy bodies (proof was things looked exactly the same on both sides of the boundary lines, imagine that!) Now, it’s important to emphasize that poaching is not the answer.

    Enforcing and obeying our existing land use laws is super important. First, because anarchy just doesn’t work, and much of our Wilderness indeed deserves a light touch. But also, if the existing laws are enforced and obeyed, that brings things to a head. For example, if sport climbers were ignored and still able to place fixed anchors in Wilderness, they’d probably be pretty lazy about the issue of recreation restrictions. But when they get shut down, they start looking at the highly restrictive Wilderness management in a different way, perhaps realizing it’s not the only way to conserve land, and perhaps might indeed be pretty unfriendly.

  49. Andrew McLean September 10th, 2009 11:08 am

    Or perhaps the Sport Climbers will realize that fixed anchors and grid-bolting have a place, and maybe it is not in designated Wilderness areas. I like to climb in places like American Fork and Maple Canyon (heavily bolted, non wilderness) but would hate to see that sort of thing happen in designated wilderness areas because once they are drilled and bolted, the environment has been forever changed. When I climb in Wilderness areas, I just understand that it is a different game – perhaps less routes and less protection, but even if I climb a vastly popular route in the Wilderness, I think it is great that it is (or should be) just as it was first found and how it will forever be. If people stop climbing for some reason, the mountain hasn’t paid the price for nearsighted generation who was doing “just a little damage.”

  50. Andrew McLean September 10th, 2009 11:21 am

    Hi Chris – in regards to the FS screwing people out of their cabins, we have a similar situation here in Utah at a place called Porter Fork. People own their cabins, but they are on leased FS land. If I was thinking of building there, I’d know this from the start and either build a small, modest cabin which I could enjoy for a few years and then write off when/if the FS took its land back, or I’d make a cabin which could be moved. As is, people are building VERY expensive permenant cabins there nowadays, which seems foolish to me – it’s like a rental tenant remodeling a house they don’t own and then complaining when they get the boot. An even more extreme case is some of the guides cabins in the Grand Teton National Park – there’s a ton of history there and you can own the cabin, but you don’t own the land. I’d enjoy it while I could and not put a bunch of money into it.

  51. Randonnee September 10th, 2009 11:50 am

    The private recreational cabin activity on leased USFS is at this time in history, very incongruous. Given the fact that generally one cannot have certain uses or access other than by walking on all sort of Wilderness and non-Wilderness USFS Lands, it is weird that private parties are allowed permanent cabins. WIth all of the modern enviro-related Regs., how is it even possible for USFS to even monitor much less Enforce this very heavy individual use of USFS Land? Just remember, two weeks camping at one time and 30 days per year is the limit of the Law (Regs.) on USFS Lands. However, how many generations in these families have possessed a cabin on USFS Lands? In this day of severe limits on the landowner Public in using any USFS Lands, this Lease for a private cabin is certainly elitist use, a large taking of a Public asset for private use.

    Those cabins, because of longstanding Leases, often are on some very pristine USFS Land. As a result of the Lease, those lots were not logged, as are USFS or private Lands nearby.

    This remaining cabin scheme could have made more sense 60 or 70 years ago when private individuals were Permitted to build a cabin far into what is now Wilderness. Some of my elderly friends (families) here had personal cabins for recreation or fur trapping in what is now the Enchantments Core and Alpine Lakes Wilderness. I have sought and found some of these gems-cabins which were standing, hidden, in good shape after 60 years.

    Instead of raising the lease costs I would advocate to just discontinue this scheme of taking USFS Land for private use. Someone, from the city, likely, will come to Lake Wenatchee and pay the huge Lease price on many of the mentioned Leases. I cannot see the value of this for the landowner general Public, for the “ecosystem,” or certainly for Public access and Use of Public Lands.

  52. Randonnee September 10th, 2009 12:17 pm

    Lou said, “Enforcing and obeying our existing land use laws is super important. First, because anarchy just doesn’t work, and much of our Wilderness indeed deserves a light touch.”

    In light of well-known, observed, and documented snowmobile trespass across the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, I would say yep, how about some Enforcement?

    I have not seen many mountain bike tracks into the Wilderness here since the mid-80s. That was before the exponential expansion of Rules and Regulations in ALW, Permits for the Enchantment Core, and the hyper marketing (by blogs, Forums, Organizations etc) and explosion of use. A lot of that ‘explosion’ is day use, since overnight use is by Permit, and previously the Permit areas of formerly light overnight use have become plugged to the max as well in my observation.

  53. Andrew McLean September 10th, 2009 12:29 pm

    In retrospect, I doubt the USFS would allow cabins like this nowadays and are probably trying to extinguish their usage going forward. I’m sure there are many multi-generational owners there, but there are also probably families who no longer use them and when they go to sell them, they are worth a ton, especially considering the wealth around the PNW.

  54. Lou September 10th, 2009 12:30 pm

    I’d add, in view of Andrew’s comment, that I should probably repeat myself again and say I’m supportive of what we have in legal Wilderness, including the limited recreation. What I’m talking about is why I’m against making buffer/fringe areas into more legal Wilderness that outlaws fixed anchors, mountain biking, etc… when there are plenty of other ways besides legal Wilderness to practice land conservation…

    Also, thanks Andrew for dropping by.

  55. Matt Kinney September 10th, 2009 5:35 pm

    I might add that Denali National Park has vast wilderness areas for trekking. It’s all sectioned off into 100 subunits and a complete nightmare to plan a trip. My expereince is its not worth the hassles for trekking permits. You waste 3 days just coming and going to a simple trailhead that is 50 miles into the Park.. You have to take a bus, if you can get a seat. It is so tighly managed that I have no desire to really hike there anymore in summer. If you want to bike the park road (which is really nice) you now have to camp 2 miles off the road every night to protect the “integreity of the wilderness” I assume for the benefit of folks sighseeing on stinky old school buses. What could be more intregal to the park than some cyclist camped along the road? I usually give kudo’s to our federal land managers but Denali is real bad.

    I recall on my last trek in Denali NP hiking for miles up a creek drainage to find a 24×24″ sign in the middle of the most premier wilderness area in North America stating. “Area Closed Wolf Denning Area” Help me here. So I hike all that distance in hopes of actually seeing wolves . Than I am told I can’t. I actually laughed and then turned around and never saw any wolves. Would have been nice to move quietly ahead and sit, wait for wolves and pups and just observe. That ‘s not allowed unless you are a park ranger or NPS employee it would seem.

    On the other hand Wrangell/St Elias NP requires no permits and you can have a bush pilot land you anywhere he/she thinks she/he can land a P-Cub. But in that area the state just shoots all the wolves from planes on their wilderness lands .That means fewere if any wolves moving through adjacent federal wilderness. Wolves aren’t that smart to understand survey lines. 1000 (yes 1000!) wolves have been shot in the past 12 months on state land adjacent to Wrangel/St Elias Park Wilderness areas. 100’s more next to Denali.

    Wilderness can only be mismanaged.

  56. gtrantow September 10th, 2009 8:46 pm

    Wow, great discussion! Thanks Lou for starting the long debate.

    The Wilderness Workshop and Sloan are way too far outside the common sense envelope. I side with RFMBA and mixed use compared to preferential treatment of cattle and horses. Giving cattle and horses the “grandfather clause” and penalizing mountain bikers and game carts is wrong. We have a national obesity problem and children who need to experience the outdoors more not less, which will be the result of reducing transportation options into the outdoors (mtn bikes). The Hiden Gems proposal if approved will result in a loss of quality experiences, a loss of access and a reduction of liberty. Count me out!

  57. Andrew McLean September 10th, 2009 9:23 pm

    Matt – having been to both Denali and WSE parks, I enjoy the bush pilot access at WSE, but think it is great that Denali doesn’t have it. Sure, there are tons of great lines to be skied in the Denali park, but it just makes them all the more elusive. There are still there – you just have to really (in some cases, really, really, really) want them. I use motorized access when I can, but if I can’t, I kind of like that even more.

  58. Brent September 11th, 2009 12:37 pm

    Wow, great discussion here. I especially appreciate the point about being organized… I’m a member of an organization called Allied Climbers of San Diego (ACSD) that acts as a collective voice for balanced access rights of outdoor enthusiasts in our area. We’re an Access Fund affiliate and we often work with the USFS through a Memorandum of understanding we signed with them to discuss access issues. Though we don’t always agree, we’ve had good success in establishing a dialog with them. Sometimes the USFS has changed access policy as a result, and sometimes we help spread the word about area closures due to raptor nesting or other environmental issues. The important thing is that we are an organized entity that can have the discussion in the first place. For now, we represent climbing interests in San Diego county, but we’re growing quickly. My name is linked to the ACSD web site but I don’t officially represent the group… just an active member.

  59. Lou September 11th, 2009 1:18 pm

    Folks around here seem to have woken up an realized there might be other ways to manage the backcountry than making it into legal Wilderness. Interesting to watch.

  60. Randonnee September 11th, 2009 1:39 pm

    That is an interesting article, Lou. I would hope that this ‘progressive’ thought, realistic thought, anyway, spreads. Here in WA is the same widespread mantras, stubbornly held in lockstep by the majority metro folks whose level of knowledge may be questioned. It is just not black and white eg ‘make it Wilderness to protect it,’ underlying motivation being wanting it for personal recreation in a pristine area. During the past decade and longer USFS seems to be the Overprotection Service and instead of Multiple-Use the purpose seems to be to Deny Human Use!

  61. Mason September 12th, 2009 6:46 pm

    Check out this website-
    And this-
    Politicians securing constituents, wackjob Wilderness Society types taking our recreation opportunities away one singletrack mile at a time.

  62. Mason September 12th, 2009 7:39 pm

    Here’s another one –
    Protecting areas that are naturally protected already, undesignating de-facto wilderness, Wilderness groups funded by Weyerhauser and oil companies?!@#$

  63. Lou September 13th, 2009 8:03 am

    I was curious if certain common views about logging were paranoid or outdated. I spoke with a wildlife biologist about logging, he told me that indeed, logging can and is frequently done is ways that are NOT destructive to the forest ecology. What’s more, he said logging can be essential to forest health, especially in areas where we can’t just let wildfire burn at will. He also said, nearly all our forest is not in a “natural” state, and furthermore much of it has perhaps never been in a totally natural state, having even been influenced by man back when Native Americans were doing the influencing. Thus, “protecting” it is somewhat of a myth, and in some cases total hogwash.

    He further stated that paranoia about logging is a throwback to 1960s environmentalism and is a sort of red herring when it’s constantly brought up as something legal Wilderness is needed to protect us from.

    Also, he stated that indeed there are cases of older forest that should be protected from logging, but that it’s not the huge evil boogie man that environmentalists make it out to be, and very little if any forest in Colorado would fall into that category anyway.

    Just thought I’d get that injected into the discussion here.

  64. john Gloor September 13th, 2009 10:38 am

    Lou, I would bet many of the areas under consideration have been logged before and are now second growth. Some areas logged a hundred years ago for mining purposes seem like natural forest, with just the occasional large stump being a clue to the area’s history.

    Going to school in Aspen as a kid (early 70’s) we were totally brainwashed by our teachers that logging was very bad. There were no positive aspects given to even the discussion. That same belief is prevalent today with many people, but they still live in wood houses and ski wood core skis. My main objection to logging is the cutting of roads and the ugly slash left over. If those aspects can be avoided, the temporary loss of trees is not too bad with me. Open pit mining and the roads and cuts of oil/gas drilling are another issue though. Not all areas have mineral/fuel deposits so the blanket ban of wilderness might not be needed for extractive industry protection

  65. Randonnee September 13th, 2009 11:34 am

    Very true that logging may be done in a non-destructive fashion. I have done so in my years in the woods. An example as I have alluded previously, we logged steep terrain such as 100% grades in the Cascades with a 100% suspension “Swiss” skyline . Here on the east slope several outfits of Swiss loggers brought the system here in the late ’60s. With that system a 1.25″ cable line from 40 ft to 100 ft high by topping and rigging trees. Logs roll down on a carriage without dragging for a distance of a mile or more. With this method logs are yarded with a lot of “”lift” until suspended therefore the remaining standing trees and the ground are lightly touched. Because of the mile-plus suspended line, much road-building was not needed. As an alternative to heli-logging, there was not the noise and disturbance and jet fuel burning of helos (I have also heli-logged). There are also methods of logging using tractor surface-skidding that may be done in a non-destructive fashion. Unfortunately some of this is dependent on the silvicultural diversity found on the east slope- clearcuts are strongly indicated on the west slope and in AK, places that I also worked as a logger, but even clearcuts may be limited in size and effect on the ecosystem and viewscape. Nonetheless, depending on Regulation and landowner practices/ requirements, less logging impact is very feasible. Not all logging devastates the land, but those examples are publicized and remembered.

    Sadly, the results of high-production methods of short-span tower logging that left sunburst skid roads on mountainsides and ugly truck road systems on highly-visible mountain slopes are seen by all who drive I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass. That stretch was scalped again over 7 years in the 1980’s as a result of Corporate financial considerations on the every-other section of private land within the USFS lands. That land ownership was the result of Railroad Grants of the 19th century, land given in exchange for opening the Territory to settlement through railroad construction. This recent example perhaps sadly gave fuel to the anti-logging efforts. Most loggers enjoy and respect natural lands and many would support low-impact logging techniques.

    We really have no need to log unlogged areas at this time. Sadly, so much formerly logged and managed areas and ‘tree farm’ is now untouched and in poor shape, a result of environmental initiatives that went too far, unreasonably.

  66. Lou September 13th, 2009 12:00 pm

    Yeah, it is apparently an ignorant thing to rail on and on about “protecting” the land from logging. The issue is nuanced. Some protection required, but not a big deal around here.

    Mineral development is another matter. My view on that is first, mineral development on National Forest is not exactly a rubber stamp deal. In fact, it’s quite an involved, iffy, and expensive process to start a new mine. (See this, to get a picture of the politics

    In other words, it’s not like the non-Wilderness is going to be overrun with mines. Even so, we need some mines, so the occasional one is simply a price for our lifestyle.

    Gas drilling has everyone up in arms and most certainly has an impact, but it’s not like gas drilling kills the ecology and sterilizes the land. It’s more of a visual impact than anything, and will go away quicker than the hard rock mines which created Aspen or the coal mines that created Carbondale, that’s for sure. Indeed, the impacts of gas drilling will easily be gone much much quicker than the thousands of mine remnants that are, yes, inside our legal Wilderness around here! Imagine that!

    Yep, that’s all contrasted with our mental construct of pristine legal Wilderness, which actually is not. Poorly managed, poached, and containing plenty of man made artifacts, legal-Wilderness is a concept that causes warm and fuzzy feelings and is fun to take the moral highground for, but it’s not the only way to have conserved backcountry.

    Oh, and the dread evil of ROADS? Yeah, right, we’re just going to start willy nilly building roads all over the place just because it’s non-Wilderness public land? Not. Illegal roads will appear just like illegal trails do in legal Wilderness (see “management” above). Both are management issues, not something you use Wilderness designation to control at the expense of legal recreation opportunities.

    My take, anyhow…

  67. ellen September 13th, 2009 5:03 pm

    You should see the amazing wildflowers and new growth two years later in areas where we’ve done extensive logging in our devastated pine-beetle forests in Summit County!! And the views….
    I used to be a bonified tree-hugger, but now I’m not so sure what to think.,,,

  68. Lou September 13th, 2009 7:39 pm

    Trees are just big plants. They’re beautiful, fun to ski around and so forth, but they’re just big plants… that’s why insects eat them.

  69. Mac September 14th, 2009 3:23 am

    Yes trees are indeed large plants – which occasionally take hundreds of years to mature and provide unique and vital habitats for a myriad of other species…

  70. shoveler September 18th, 2009 12:20 pm

    I do it all, everything from mountain bike to snowmobile. Don’t see why we need more fed wilderness. And who died and made Wilderness Workshop king where they can just lord over us? They say they’ are grass roots. Hah.

  71. Kai September 23rd, 2009 9:06 pm

    Must make the single issue mtn. biker types proud to be courted by groups like this. Perhaps you should reconsider why mtn. biker agendas appear suspect sometimes to those who believe Wilderness is a legitimate part of a multiple use philosophy on our public lands.

  72. Lou September 24th, 2009 6:47 am

    Um, Kai, it appears you’ve read nothing about this issue that we’ve published here. Most mountain bikers as well as myself and folks here think having some Federal Wilderness is fine. We state that over and over and over again.

    Sure, we’re not taking the politically correct view that all Federal Wilderness is good and there is no limit on how much we should make.

    Sorry about that.

  73. Sue K. October 7th, 2009 5:13 pm

    The question shouldn’t be “wilderness or desecration,” as the wilderness jihadists like to make it out to be. That’s a straw man. The question should be “what’s the protection level appropriate for this land.”

    The “natural protection area” designation proposed upthread is something that’s been needed for years, and I for one would like to hear more about who to contact regarding this push and how to get involved. It WILL take work to get something like that passed, because the wilderness jihadists hold all the cards. Every vote east of the Mississippi is an easy vote for them to get because it brushes up on those congressmens’ green credentials. They, unfortunately, don’t have to deal with the results of those votes. We do.

    The mountain biking community, the climbing community, the backcountry skiing community – anybody who likes to recreate in the hills NEEDS to be vocal about the need for a non-wilderness public-land conservation classification. We lose hundreds of trail miles and potential trail miles every time they take a vote for wilderness. Enough, already.

    Don’t get me wrong – I love being in wilderness areas and appreciate those areas where wilderness designation is appropriate. However, it’s not uniformly appropriate for the places already so designated. Gobbling up more and more land for this most restrictive of designations does nothing more than throw up a big “GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE” sign for thousands of low-impact quiet users who would otherwise be allies in the push for preservation.

    I have to wonder – do the wilderness jihadists just hate everybody who doesn’t recreate the way they do? Based on the comments I see from them – even the ones in this comment section – I have to think that the answer is YES.

  74. Lou October 8th, 2009 7:37 am

    Sue, good points, but please leave off the name calling. The term “wilderness jihadists” is a bit harsh (though it does roll of the tongue nicely, grin). A better term for the Wildsnow public comments would be “wilderness activists.” Or if you want to make the point of how extreme it is to grab huge chunks of formerly multi-use public land and manage it with the most restrictive public land use policy possible, the term “wilderness extremists” is fair as well. But let’s stay away from the implications of words such as “jihadist.”

    It’s also good to remember that the less name calling you use, the more convincing your take might be to someone who is on the fence.


  75. Sue K. October 8th, 2009 8:45 am


    Fair enough. Although it does roll off the tongue, eh? 😉

    The really sad part to me is that their approach to the issue has divided people who, by rights, should be firm and fast allies. There aren’t going to be many people who read your blog (or who play in the backcountry at all) who are going to disagree with the need for wilderness. It serves a powerful and important purpose. Why, then, should we be fighting over this?

    There should be room enough out there for everybody to recreate responsibly, including the moto-folk. But if one group – the group that holds the cards on this issue politically – takes a “my way or the highway” approach to the issue, all the rest of us can do is fight them. Which is a HUGE waste of energy that should be focused on protecting the backcountry from abuse.

  76. Lou October 8th, 2009 9:59 am

    Sue, exactly!

  77. Jeremy Rubingh October 22nd, 2009 5:06 pm

    Its so awesome to see people so passionate about this! One thing I think is important to remember is that we all share one big thing in common: We love Wild Colorado. I will come out and say it right now – I support wilderness. But what is also important to me are all of these different points of view. I respect your opinions and I like how they make me think.

    Unfortunately public land is all too easy to turn into things we all don’t like. The NCA designations and other alternative designations sound great to me at first. And indeed there are places they might be appropriate. But as Sue mentions, it is a two year process that doesn’t guarantee any kind of protection for these lands in the end. It allows for other special interests like oil and gas, mining, and motorized use the avenue they want to keep these lands open to them. Their resources are huge and the political climate can always change to their favor. And while I know Sue has a ton of energy, I’m not sure she can match the time and $$$ that all of these industries and interested parties can.

    I know we all want what is best for Colorado, but I can’t honestly see a better option than giving these valuable ecosystems the best protection we can get them in a world that is closing in on our last bastions of “Wild.” As a 6th generation Coloradan I feel the most important thing we can do for this state is to protect it. And as of right now this is the best tool we have.

    If you sit down and look at the maps and talk to the “Wilderness Jihadists” you might find they are willing to take your ideas into consideration and quell some of the misinformation that is spreading out there about “trail closures.” Land can’t even be considered for wilderness if it doesn’t meet a fairly strict criteria. Wilderness quality land is a very rare thing these days in Colorado. We have to take a good long look at this and ask ourselves if these untracked places are worth sacrificing for a few trails that realistically will never exist. Many of the roads/trails RFMBA has gripes with are going to be decommissioned by the Forest Service regardless of Hidden Gems. More than 1.3 million acres of White River National Forest remain as is even if the Wilderness proposal is adopted.

    We can all see things differently, but let’s not forget to communicate and work together for Colorado. I think its wrong for us to be so polarized on this. I also think its wrong to lump everyone into the same category – Mountain bikers Vs. Wilderness. Not all Mountain Bikers in Colorado think wilderness expansion is a bad idea.

  78. Bryan Long October 27th, 2009 4:57 pm

    Lou, I respect you and the amazing climbing and skiing that you have done throughout your life. God knows how many times I have used your guides to find a route up some of our most beautiful peaks. But no matter how much I read about your stance on this issue, I just can’t wrap my head around it. I do understand wanting to leave the land open for multiple use… but wait, isn’t that the motto of the Forest Service: “Land of Many Uses?” And those uses allow what we should all be joining together to fight: extractive industries.

    If you really think that lands can keep their wild character while allowing many uses, then I suggest you go mountain biking on the Roan Plateau, the San Juan Basin, the Raton Basin, the Powder River Basin, etc. In fact, a few new gas rigs just popped up here, near McClure Pass — adjacent to one of the areas the Hidden Gems is trying to protect. Let’s stop pretending that our favorite recreational activity is the only important activity in the world and start looking at the bigger picture. If we don’t protect these lands then we will have drilling on our doorstep!

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  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

    All material on this website is copyrighted, the name WildSnow is trademarked, permission required for reproduction (electronic or otherwise) and display on other websites. PLEASE SEE OUR COPYRIGHT and TRADEMARK INFORMATION.

    We include "affiliate sales" links with most of our blog posts. This means we receive a percentage of a sale if you click over from our site (at no cost to you). None of our affiliate commission links are direct relationships with specific gear companies or shopping carts, instead we remain removed by using a third party who manages all our affiliate sales and relationships. We also sell display "banner" advertising, in this case our relationships are closer to the companies who advertise, but our display advertising income is carefully separated financially and editorially from our blog content, over which we always maintain 100% editorial control -- we make this clear during every advertising deal we work out. Please also notice we do the occasional "sponsored" post, these are under similar financial arrangements as our banner advertising, only the banner or other type of reference to a company are included in the blog post, simply to show they provided financial support to and provide them with advertising in return. Unlike most other "sponsored content" you find on the internet, our sponsored posts are entirely under our editorial control and created by WildSnow specific writers.See our full disclosures here.

    Backcountry skiing is dangerous. You may be killed or severely injured if you do any form of ski mountaineering, skimo randonnee and randonnée skiing. The information and news on this website is intended only as general information. Due to human error and passing time, the information, text and images contained within this website may be inaccurate, false, or out-of-date. By using, reading or viewing the information provided on this website, you agree to absolve the owners of Wild Snow as well as content contributors of any liability for injuries or losses incurred while using such information. Furthermore, you agree to use any of this website's information, maps, photos, or binding mounting instructions templates at your own risk, and waive Wild Snow owners and contributors of liability for use of said items for ski touring or any other use.

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