Both sides find sticking points in Hidden Gems debate
The battle over the Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal has spread to bumpers and back windows of vehicles throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.
The anti-Gems side got the early jump by mass producing a sticker that features a red circle with a bar – the universal symbol for “no” – and the words “Hidden Gems.” They have been prevalent since January. John Hembel said he has purchased about 6,000 of the stickers and distributed them with the help of the Hi Country 4 Wheelers club.
Now the Hidden Gems proponents have come up with an eye-catching symbol of their own. Wilderness Workshop, a Carbondale-based conservation group helping lead the fight for additional wilderness, mailed just shy of 2,000 bumper stickers late last week to supporters of the cause.
Supporters have been asking Gems organizers why they didn’t have stickers of their own, according to Will Roush, a Hidden Gems organizer.
The pro-Gems sticker features sun rays over a green mountain landscape with the phrase, “I love Hidden Gems” with a heart representing the word love. It was designed by Rainy Day Designs of Carbondale.
“It’s bright and hopeful and a personal statement of support,” Roush said.
Hembel said he understands the pro-Gems side’s interest in bumper stickers. They are an effective way of conveying a message. “I think they’ve got to get the word out there somehow,” Hembel said.
However, he thinks it is probably too little, too late for the Gems proponents. Most people have an opinion on the topic, if they’ve educated themselves on the issues, Hembel said, and foes think the numbers support their side.
A letter mailed to Gems supporters urges recipients to place the sticker on their favorite mode of transportation immediately – be it car, bicycle or skateboard.
“Think of it as a flash mob for wilderness – a spontaneous act of joy and hope for the wild!” Roush wrote in the letter.
The stickers arrived in mail boxes Monday, and Roush said Tuesday that Wilderness Workshop staff members have already spotted them on some vehicles.
The Hidden Gems proposal seeks the strongest protection for 342,000 acres of public lands in Pitkin, Eagle, Summit and Gunnison counties. U.S. Rep. Jared Polis has introduced a bill to add a portion of the lands in Eagle and Summit counties from the Gems proposal to the federal wilderness system. Gems proponents hope U.S. Rep. John Salazar will introduce a wilderness bill with additional lands in Pitkin and Gunnison counties.
The effort has sparked a bitter debate. Foes contend there are enough wilderness lands already. They don’t want further restrictions on public lands. The wilderness designation prohibits motorized and mechanized uses.
Gems supporters contend their revised plans do little to impinge on forest users. There have been 63 adjustments to proposed boundaries of the Hidden Gems plan in the Roaring Fork Valley, Roush said. After those revisions, only nine miles of trails for all-terrain vehicles would be closed in the valley; two miles of trails used by mountain bikers; and one mile of road used by full-sized vehicles, Roush said.
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