Officials, including Interior Secretary, gather for Red Lady

Deb Haaland talks about benefit for future generations

By Mark Reaman

Standing just outside the Rainbow Park pavilion beneath the iconic peak of Crested Butte Mountain early Sunday afternoon, a group of local, state and national politicians spoke to a crowd of about 75 people to celebrate the recent administrative Thompson Divide mineral withdrawal that includes parts of Mt. Emmons. Headlined by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, the group extolled the virtues of the decision signed by Haaland on April 3 of this year and gave accolades to the relentlessness and collaboration it took to put a strong temporary halt to mining on Red Lady.

Describing the evolution of the area from the time before people, to the Native Americans who summered in the valley (“the original second homeowners”), to the mining period and the current recreation era, Crested Butte mayor Ian Billick said that “this decision is part of a journey, and this journey doesn’t really ever end. We are stewards of the landscape and today we celebrate a moment in time over an issue important to the community.”

Gunnison County commissioner Jonathan Houck agreed. “It is great to be on the landscape today, celebrating where we are in this step and celebrating the people involved,” he said. “This has been a model of stewardship and hanging in for the long haul. Of course, there are more challenges coming with things like climate change. We’ve set an example of what stewardship looks like and how it can be accomplished with collaboration. Everyone is welcome to sit down and speak at the stewardship table.”

Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest supervisor Chad Stewart touted the mineral withdrawal decision. “The cool part of it is that is shows working with a collaborative group is always desirable. There were a wide range of users involved and this resulted in what the public wants,” he said.

Dan Gibbs, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said he was honored the state agency was able to contribute to the effort. “There are many good things with this action. It is for example essential to take steps like this to limit the wildlife fragmentation,” he said. “This is a culmination of decades of conversations to protect this landscape for future generations.”

Bennet acknowledged the decades-long community effort. “I am grateful to this community for the extraordinary leadership shown over 50 years,” he said. “It is a reminder that democracy can really work. People with disagreements can work together and work for future generations. This is an example of doing something important for the next generation. I am grateful to this administration to protect public lands across Colorado.”

Haaland became a bit choked up and emotional over the moment. Noting that she rarely is able to speak in front of such a spectacular backdrop, she said she was moved by the fact that there were children actively playing in the Rainbow Park playground during the speeches. “It is for them that we all do this. It is indeed a celebration to protect public lands,” she said. “Growing up I was outside a lot, and I value the beauty of nature and want that for every child. Today we celebrate the protection of Thompson Divide and Red Lady.”

She told the crowd that a small group had taken a morning hike near Mt. Emmons up Oh Be Joyful. “It was an amazing opportunity to see it and to see the hikers, the kayaks and rafters on the river, the fishermen, all people enjoying public lands. This preserves an opportunity to create treasured memories for future generations.”


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