Respecting Wilderness


The 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964 is here.  As we enjoy the half-centennial celebrations, a reminder of the purpose of Wilderness seems timely. The enacting legislation calls them areas where “man himself is a visitor who does not remain” and areas where human intervention is “foreign.” The citizens of San Miguel County, and in particular Telluride, have been actively promoting designation of more Wilderness through the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Bill to facilitate all that Wilderness represents.

However, along with Wilderness come requirements that are designed to complement the management of these areas as an “enduring resource.”  These emphasize the need to direct non-complementary uses elsewhere.  Examples of non-complementary uses in Wilderness include grooming for cross-country skiing, horse and foot racing, manipulative research and recreation involving motorized or mechanical vehicles (Hendee, et al 1986).

Mountain bikes are popular in the Telluride area; however, mechanized transport is not allowed in Wilderness – neither the Mount Sneffels (Highline Trail) or Lizard Head Wildernesses.  All federal land management agencies have interpreted mechanical transport to include bicycles.

The Forest Service constructed 15 miles of new mountain bike trails near Mountain Village six years ago.  The Town of Mountain Village provides over 10 miles of trails on open space and there area bout 90 miles of maintained bike routes in the Telluride area on National Forest System lands.  All beckon riders to seek adventure on them.

All citizens are encouraged to help maintain the character of Wildernesses by restricting use to foot and horses only.

We encourage citizens to partake in the celebrations and presentations on this 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act and at the same time to understand, observe and respect all that designated Wilderness affords.

 – San Miguel County Commissioner Joan May and Norwood District Ranger Judy Schutza 

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Category: Letters to the Editor

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