VAIL DAILY - 3/6/12 Why Wilderness Matters to Colorado

May 6, 2012


Note: Ecoflight flew Colorado Environmental Coalition and Vail business leaders over newly proposed Wilderness recently.


Vail Valley Voices: Why wilderness matters to Colorado's heritage

Beth Ganz and Elise Jones
Vail, Colorado


Colorado's Rocky Mountains offer some of the most stunning views and iconic landscapes in the world. As Coloradans, we rightfully take great pride in our beautiful state — both the natural wonders and our strong heritage of conservation.

Right now all Coloradans have an opportunity to stand together today and preserve more of our state's iconic landscapes for future generations. 

Sen. Mark Udall and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis are hard at work with local communities, conservation groups and businesses to designate additional federal lands as wilderness in the state's central mountains. 

The central mountains of Colorado are world-class destinations for residents and visitors, and they are the heart of Colorado's second-largest industry, tourism. 

The public lands here offer unparalleled outdoor recreational opportunities, including skiing and snowboarding, hunting and fishing, hiking, guided horseback rides and whitewater rafting. 

They are an integral part of the state's identity and support our state and local economies with significant business and employment opportunities. 

The communities of Eagle and Summit counties are proof positive that a healthy environment and a healthy tourism economy go hand in hand. And that fact is not lost on Coloradans. In the most recent Colorado College Conservation in the West poll, an impressive 93 percent of Coloradans agree that public lands are an essential part of Colorado's economy.

In addition to the economic benefits, these lands provide significant environmental benefits to the public, including vast open spaces and vistas, wildlife habitat and watersheds for much of the western United States. 

To ensure the unique attributes and benefits of Colorado's public lands requires a balancing of the need for sustaining outdoor recreation areas with the need to preserve pristine wilderness. Sen. Udall and Rep. Polis' respective efforts are striving to strike that important balance.

The areas under consideration in Eagle and Summit counties have been identified as important ecological areas that provide wildlife habitat and serve as our community watersheds, including Hoosier Ridge near Breckenridge and West Lake Creek outside of Edwards. These areas will benefit greatly from the contemplated higher levels of protection and will contribute to the quality of life in our iconic mountain communities. 

We are incredibly fortunate as Coloradans to live, work, operate businesses and play in some of the world's greatest natural environments. 

In return, we are compelled to care for and preserve those environments. This stewardship is key to the sustainability and vitality of our communities and the tourism industry throughout the state. 

To that end we are excited to offer our whole-hearted support to Sen. Udall's current effort to develop the Central Mountains Outdoor Heritage Act and Rep. Polis' Eagle and Summit County Wilderness Preservation Act .

Beth Ganz is the vice president of public affairs and sustainability at Vail Resorts. Elise Jones is the executive director of the Colorado Environmental Coalition.