Wilderness Wanderings: Wilderness advocate speaks to his Steamboat choir | SteamboatToday.com

Wilderness Wanderings: Wilderness advocate speaks to his Steamboat choir

Wilderness trails update Friends of Wilderness trail crews have been busy the past few weeks checking on conditions of area hiking paths and clearing fallen trees. Here’s what they found: It’s a tale of two seasons; those trails at lower elevations dried out early and offer good early season hiking. However, trail sections above 9,500 feet have more lingering snow than normal. The “Zirkel Circle,” for example, is impassable with snowpack at 4 to 5 feet and deeper above Gilpin and Gold Creek lakes. • Lower Silver Creek Trail is clear of snow and fallen trees for the first 3 1/2 miles. • Gold Creek Lake Trail is mostly open to the lake but totally covered at that elevation and higher. • Gilpin Trail is hikable to a point one mile past the log crossing over Mica Creek. • Mica Trail can be hiked for one mile above its junction with Gilpin Trail. • Three Island Lake Trail offers snow four to five feet deep above the Wilderness boundary. • North Lake Trail has two difficult water crossings and deep snow well before the old burn area. • 1189/Diamond Park Trail is clear and is a great option for early season hiking and biking. Contact the local U.S. Forest Service office at 970-870-2299 for information on other forest trails and more up-to-date conditions.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Wilderness advocate George Wuerthner is likely to find a large turnout of his “choir” when he visits Steamboat Springs from 7 to 8:30 p.m. June 4 at Bud Werner Memorial Library on his national “Wilderness Under Siege” tour. Hosted by Steamboat-based Friends of Wilderness, the event is open to the public with no charge for admission.

Wuerthner, who represents Wilderness Watch and other conservancy organizations, began the multi-city tour last August in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and has since talked to audiences from Maine to California.

George Wuerthner

Unlike outdoor enthusiasts in many other parts of the country, Steamboat locals have the choice of three unique wilderness areas when they wake up any given morning and decide to go for a hike – Mount Zirkel, Flat Tops and Sarvis Creek.

But Wuerthner maintains that the true value of wilderness is much more subtle.

“The economic value of wilderness is not understood by a lot of people,” Wuerthner said. “They associate it with jobs connected with the land such as an outfitter in the Flat Tops. But that’s only part of the economic value.”

Those with location-neutral jobs or who are otherwise financially independent are a hidden part of the local economy, he said.

“These protected lands are important to quality of life. There is a growing number of people who can work anywhere in the country,” Wuerthner explains. “They choose to make their homes in areas with high amenity values – clean air, clean water and wilderness.”

He also plans to talk about how wilderness near and far is under constant threat in attachments to federal legislation as they make their way through the U.S. Congress. Hidden within the recent 2018 Farm Bill, for example, were amendments allowing logging of tracts of up to 6,000 acres without environmental protection and exceptions for exclusion from endangered species protection.

“The amendments are very open-ended and could be abused quickly,” Wuerthner said. “They would not pass on their own merit.”

That cuts through the very foundation of why we established the very idea of wilderness.

“We said, ‘This is a place we are not going to commercially exploit,’” Wuerthner sais. “We set it aside for future generations for the future of this Earth.”

Fifty-four years after Congress designated the first group of wilderness areas including our own Mount Zirkel Wilderness, we now have 765 wilderness Areas totaling more than 110 million acres in 44 states and Puerto Rico. But Wuerthner maintains that’s not enough.

“We don’t have enough wilderness,” Wuerthner said. “Only 2.7 percent of land in the lower 48 states is wilderness. A lot of other countries are ahead of us in conservation.”

Bob Korch is president and trail crew leader with Friends of Wilderness, which assists the U.S. Forest Service in maintaining trails and educating the public about the Mount Zirkel, Sarvis Creek and Flat Tops Wilderness areas. For more information, go to http://www.FriendsofWilderness.com.

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