What is it?
Hidden Gems is a wilderness proposal in Eagle, Pitkin and Summit counties created by the Wilderness Workshop out of Carbondale, Colorado. Wilderness has already been created in an abundance in Colorado and serves it's purpose well in the high country. The Hidden Gems Campaign prides itself in creating wilderness in mid elevation areas where there has been and currently will continue to be heavy human impact. The Wilderness Workshop operates on a very large budget that comes from several donations, and many of these people are not from the Colorado area. Hidden Gems primary political support is Congressman Polis in the Eagle and Summit county areas. As of 2012 he has a bill in congress named the Eagle and Summit Wilderness Preservation Act.
What is Wilderness?
Is there an organization that rivals Wilderness Workshop?
Yep, the WRFA (White River Forest Alliance). This is a group of volunteers that organized an organization that groups together all the people that oppose the create of wilderness. This includes snowmobilers, hunters, off roaders, ATV'ers, dirt bikers, mountain bikers, hikers, ranchers, aviation groups and even handicap people. The concept is that these groups can unite and fight together instead of individually. The WRFA is responsible for slowing down the progress of the Hidden Gems campaign and limiting what Congressman Polis has introduced. The best part is that joining the WRFA is free! So make sure you add your name to the list that oppose wilderness designation!
What areas will become wilderness?
The maps have changed from the campaign's first suggestion of wilderness. Those changes
are a direct result of people protesting wilderness that impacts them. Click on the picture to see a bigger map of the area effecting Lower Piney.
Who are these people?
Various people from all over the country. The Hidden Gems website lists people in support of the campaign. There is a campaign person who represents each county as well. It's a strong statement to avoid business with the organizations that support Hidden Gems. As you can see from the list of people, many are not families that have lived in Colorado for very long.
Why don't we vote on this? How is this process bypassing the public?
It's really not bypassing us. Our congressman (representatives and senators) can support this process and introduce it as a bill. It really comes down to who our congressman are and what they support. In order for wilderness to become law, it must be come a legislative bill passed by the House of Representatives and Senate committee. This is a long process but depending on what political party is controlling the house or senate, a bill may or may not pass. The President also has the ability to veto the bill and send it back to congress.
How do we object to wilderness?
The first step is to always vote and vote for someone who represents your view on wilderness. This can be difficult because these people also represent so many other views (abortion, gun control, foreign policy, etc). But in general, most Republicans do not support wilderness and left wing Democrats do support wilderness.
Once a proposal like Hidden Gems has been introduced the best thing you can do is submit letters to congressman, mayors, town council members, commissioners, etc. The person supporting the bill has likely made up his/her mind. However, the more controversy and press made about the discontent of the wilderness bill will make it harder for the congressman to get support from their peers to pass the bill. These letters should be polite (or they will be ignored) and straight from the heart. Just explain your love for snowmobiling and other family activities that would be prevented if wilderness was created.
What happens if the bill passes?
Then wilderness is created in the areas in the bill. That means that there is no motorized access (snowmobiles, dirt bikes, atv's, chain saws, Jeeps, etc), no mechanized access (wheel chairs, mountain bikes, hang gliders, big game carts, etc), limited heartbeats (only so many people allowed at a time including horses, mules, dogs, etc). It also means that in the event of an emergency, no rescue access is permitted unless special provisions are called on. That means that a forest fire or lost hurt person would have to wait for the rescue groups to get permission to access with motorized use.
Make sure you send in your letters to congressman, commissioner's, governor's, mayors and other political figures. Your opinion will make a difference in numbers.