The Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal is a citizen-driven vision to secure the highest legislative protection possible for some of central Colorado’s most precious and threatened public lands. This exciting and timely campaign is working to protect a significant amount of the remaining wildlands on and around the White River National Forest region. The Hidden Gems proposal would protect ecologically important lower-elevation roadless areas and wildlife habitat connections between existing high peak wilderness areas—increasingly important in the face of climate change.
McCullough Gulch, by Lisa Smith
The Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign seeks to protect:
- Approximately 380,000 acres in roughly 40 separate areas on and around the White River National Forest region,
- A dozen new stand-alone wilderness areas such as Red Table Mountain near Basalt, and
- Additions to popular existing wilderness areas including Maroon Bells-Snowmass and Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness Areas.
Most of the proposed wilderness is in four counties—Summit, Eagle, Pitkin and Gunnison—on the White River National Forest and nearby Bureau of Land Management lands as well as portions of Gunnison National Forest. Hidden Gems would protect about 40 percent of the estimated 1.1 million acres of unprotected wilderness-quality lands in the White River region. To find out more, please visit the Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign’s official website.
Recreation/Forest Service Roads
Right-sizing initiative–The Forest Service recently announced that it will embark on a right-sizing initiative to restore Colorado’s forests and rivers that have been damaged by a maze of obsolete or illegal roads left behind from a bygone era of logging and mining. These old, unused, decaying roads are harming wildlife habitat, fisheries, and water quality in our forests. Addressing this unneeded route network offers an unprecedented opportunity to protect community drinking water supplies, create local jobs, enhance backcountry recreation and lower the fiscal burden on taxpayers.
Diamond Breaks, by CEC
SRCA and our partners in conservation were crucial in helping to launch this initiative. In fact, Congress has already begun funding the Forest Service to right-size its road system. In the last three years, $180 million has been allocated to the agency, and Colorado’s conservation community was critical in securing this funding. Nearly $8.3 million of the total has been allocated to projects across the state to enhance more than 130 miles of streams, improve 39,300 acres of habitat and decommission more than 410 miles of unauthorized and unneeded Forest Service roads. The potential of this initiative to restore Colorado’s rivers, forests and grasslands is unprecedented, and we’re excited for what the future holds. SRCA is working closely with the Forest Service as they embark on this important initiative.