Protect the Backcountry

September 10, 2015

From the Gunnison Country Times and the Crested Butte News

 

Protect the Backcountry

 

Editor:

We are writing to express support for the Gunnison Public Lands Initiative (GPLI) proposal to designate specific Special Management Areas (SMA) and Wilderness in Gunnison County. After a summer of heavy recreational use and some misuseof public lands as well as the continuing risk of environmental degradation from past or proposed extractive activities, it’s time to permanently protect and fine-tune allowed uses in areas identified as priorities.

It’s clear that the economy of Gunnison County has partially and in some areas generally transitioned from extractive industries to a recreation-based economy. Public lands must be permanently protected to grow the parts of the economy based on tourism and to protect the quality of life (prosperity) of the year-round residents, while protecting the headwaters of the Colorado River and the ecology of this unique area.

We appreciate that GPLI is taking a creative and practical approach to identifying specific areas for SMAs and Wilderness. By using both SMA and Wilderness designations, GPLI’s proposal will protect important backcountry areas while allowing highly valued activities like hiking, hunting, fishing, livestock grazing, mountain biking, backcountry skiing and motorized touring to continue.

We also appreciate Senator Bennet’s leadership and support for the initiative. We encourage local residents and business owners to get involved with GPLI. We urge GPLI stakeholders to keep up the momentum, reach agreement on priority areas and send final recommendations to Senator Bennet to package into a piece of proposed legislation for Congressional approval as soon as possible.

Time is of the essence.

Robbie and Paul Davis, Crested Butte South