A few more thoughts on the Hidden Gems

(Last Updated On: November 9, 2009)

Not to beat a dead horse here, but after looking at the Hidden Gems website one more time, I wanted to point out a couple more items.

First, there is the issue of ranching and cows on Wilderness lands. From their website:

The Hidden Gems Campaign has a vital interest in sustaining local ranching operations, because ranches preserve critical winter range for the wildlife that inhabit the public lands that the campaign is working to protect. Indeed, we see ranching and wilderness as mutually beneficial, in that cattle utilize the public lands in summer and wildlife utilize the private lands in winter.

For this and many other good reasons, the campaign is working with all adjacent property owners and holders of grazing allotments to ensure their needs are fairly accommodated in any Hidden Gems wilderness legislation.

We affirm grazing allotment lessees’ rights to continued valid existing uses for allotment management. We uphold the 1980 Congressional Grazing Guidelines, which state in part:

“[W]ilderness designation should not prevent the maintenance of existing fences or other livestock management improvements, nor the construction and maintenance of new fences or improvements which are consistent with allotment management plans and/or which are necessary for the protection of the range….

“The maintenance of supporting facilities, existing in the area prior to its classification as wilderness (including fences, line cabins, water wells and lines, stock tanks, etc.), is permissible in wilderness. Where practical alternatives do not exist, maintenance or other activities may be accomplished through the occasional use of motorized equipment. This may include, for example, the use of backhoes to maintain stock ponds, pickup trucks for major fence repairs, or specialized equipment to repair stock watering facilities…. The construction of new improvements or replacement of deteriorated facilities in wilderness is permissible if in accordance with those guidelines and management plans governing the area involved.”

In my view, Wilderness is land where a person might visit and wonder if any human has ever been there before. These lands are, by definition, wild. There is nothing wild about walking through several hundred head of cattle and clearing a campsite of cowpies before bedding down to the distinctly unnatural sounds of cows. Fences and backhoes aren’t exactly wild either, now are they? If Wilderness supporters truly had the courage of their convictions, they would be pushing for Wilderness areas to ban all existing grazing allotments and have actual Wilderness. Instead, knowing the political support for such a move doesn’t exist due to the power of the ranching lobby, they engage in doublespeak that would lead someone who doesn’t know better to believe that 500 cattle is somehow better than one bicycle.

Speaking of bikes…

The Hidden Gems proposal is a win-win for mountain bikers and wilderness lovers. While mountain biking isn’t allowed in wilderness, blah, blah, blah. * Does anybody really buy the wilderness-advocates-vs.-mountain-bikers, us-vs.-them thing? Mountain bikers love wilderness too, and a lot of wilderness advocates love to mountain bike. We don’t have to choose between one or the other.

It amazes me that someone could actually write something this audacious with a straight face. There is no win, none at all, to lose trails that can currently be ridden, and lose the ability to ever create new bicycling trails in these proposed Wilderness areas. Yes, mountain bikers are, by and large, conservationists. We don’t want these areas destroyed any more than anyone else. But it’s asking a awful lot to support an idea that completely excludes us as MTB riders. Since the Wilderness act has been defined to exclude “mechanized” transport, the question in my mind will always be, “What makes a bike mechanized, but but not an AT ski binding?” An AT binding has mechanical parts and gears (so to speak, in the heel risers) and mechanical advantage just like a bike does. Just as a bike allows a rider to cover more ground than they could on foot, an AT or Telemark ski set-up will do the same. Are the skiers the next target? Finding a middle ground that allows conservation-minded recreationalists, like MTBers, to enjoy our land while protecting it from development will be the key to “Hidden Gems” ever receiving much in the way of support from the MTB community.

Frank Konsella

Frank loves snow more than anything... except his wife.  He ensures his food is digested properly by chewing it 32 times before swallowing.He is a full-time real estate agent serving Crested Butte and Gunnison and would be honored to send you his monthly newsletter.

Latest posts by Frank Konsella (see all)

Frank Konsella

Frank loves snow more than anything... except his wife.    He ensures his food is digested properly by chewing it 32 times before swallowing. He is a full-time real estate agent serving Crested Butte and Gunnison and would be honored to send you his monthly newsletter.

2 thoughts on “A few more thoughts on the Hidden Gems

  • November 10, 2009 at 11:49 am

    What trails exactly would you be losing?

  • November 10, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    Well, in the newly proposed Whetstone Wilderness, Crested Butte mountain bike riders would probably lose the Baxter Gulch (aka Carbon Creek), the Don Cook trail, the Green Lake trail, and the Wildcat trail. Plus, we would lose the ability to make the Gunnison to Crested Butte trail a reality, at least the way it is currently envisioned.

Got something to say? We love your comments!