Patrick Gamble: Wheels, wildlife and wilderness | SteamboatToday.com

Patrick Gamble: Wheels, wildlife and wilderness

Wilderness is a place “left untrammeled by man” and where one is “a visitor who does not remain” — a place of refuge for humankind in it of itself, as well as a sanctuary for the rest of the natural world. These are areas we share, not just amongst our fellow man, but a space shared with every other inhabitant, who relies upon their natural habitat left intact.

Where our wild places exist are not just within designated wilderness areas but, often, right in our own backyards. Sixty-eight percent of Colorado’s forested land is public land for each and every American, all of whom have different ideals and morals as to how they want to recreate and enjoy these places. Perhaps none more influential is Aldo Leopold’s “land ethic,” which “simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants and animals or collectively, the land … [A] land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it.” This is largely encrypted in the U.S. Forest Service’s mission.

Wildlife is largely a part of a forest’s function, and in Colorado’s rapidly growing economy, “the total economic output associated with outdoor recreation amounts to $34.5 billion dollars,” which accounts for a wide array of activity from hiking and biking to hunting and fishing. These dollars generated have gone towards tremendous expansion of trail networks, many of which have threatened critical habitat for animals. Somehow, these wheels of ours have allowed us to outpace the slow evolution of the planet we all call home.

Our wild lands do not ask for much. In fact, humans could cease to exist, and they would arguably be better off. Yet, I assume you, like me, enjoy our existence, and the fact of the matter is that humans are not inherently disruptive. We have done tremendous work towards conserving and protecting our wild places for years. The Mad Rabbit Trail Network could have some seriously profound implications towards critical wildlife habitat in our home.

We must ask ourselves how we want them left for future generations. With the encroachment of people into wild places, how far will we turn our wheels into the habitat that our wildlife depends upon? How much of an impact will that have upon those inhabitants, whom many depend upon? We cannot get wilderness back once it has been changed.

Patrick Gamble
Steamboat Springs


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