August 17, 2009
Gunnison County Board of Commissioners
200 East Virginia
Gunnison, CO 81230
Clean air, clean water, working ranches, and active outdoor adventure – these are the touchstones of our quality of life in Crested Butte and Gunnison County. As we look across Colorado we see rugged, unspoiled landscapes, breathtaking vistas, natural wonders, abundant wildlife, and unparalleled hunting, angling and recreational opportunities. Typically, these landscapes are protected under the National Wilderness Preservation System.
Wilderness is the strongest, most permanent protection for untamed landscapes on federal lands; it protects our water, cleans our air, and provides critical habitat and migration corridors for wildlife. Wilderness is a place for quiet recreation, and a refuge to humans for renewal and solitude. We believe that Treasure Mountain, the Clear Fork Roadless Area, McClure Pass, Gallo Hill, and the West Elk and Powderhorn Additions represent lands with a high degree of Wilderness character in Gunnison County, worthy of protection.
Today, most existing wilderness in Colorado is in the highest elevations leaving the more ecologically diverse and important lower elevations unprotected. Mid-elevation lands are important transitional zones for migrating wildlife, for extensive riparian plants and animals that thrive at those elevations, and for maintaining clean watersheds above human uses downstream. These lands are worthy of protection under the Wilderness Act.
Finally, wilderness designation protects the rights of ranchers to graze on their federal allotments as they have historically done, protecting historical land use and a way of life in Gunnison County. It allows for occasional, temporary use of motorized equipment by federal and state officials for wildlife management purposes.
Establishing new wilderness areas under the National Wilderness Preservation System requires vision, decisive action and a willingness to recognize the inherent value of land in its natural state. It also requires that we, as the present stewards of the land, pass to future generations the ability to enjoy the ‘American Heritage of Wilderness.’ The Town of Crested Butte supports the efforts to obtain federal designation for Wilderness in Gunnison County. We believe that Wilderness is the best way to ensure that future generations have the same opportunity to experience these irreplaceable natural treasures as we do today.
cc: Congressman John T. Salazar
Senator Mark Udall
Senator Michael F. Bennet
Charles S. Richmond, GMUG Forest Supervisor