My pack outfit crossed paths with some jovial hikers in blustery conditions near Rolling Pass a few weeks back. The fitness these senior citizens needed to hike there was impressive and their enthusiasm to see us with horses I will not forget.
They were quick to introduce a tall, handsome man in their group as one responsible for protecting the public lands around Red Mountain, and he is the mayor of Ouray. I was left intrigued by this notable leader as I gathered the horses to move on.
Mayor Bob Risch coordinated a task force and during a five-year partnership with the Trust for Public Land, the United States Forest Service and Colorado's congressional delegation, they achieved acquisition through donations and grants, thousands of acres of mining claims. The 11,000-acre triangle of public lands located between Ouray, Silverton and Telluride now is protected under the name Red Mountain Historic District.
In celebration for this achievement in 2005, Doug Robotham, Colorado director of the Trust for Public Land, put out this statement: "This locally inspired, locally led effort demonstrates how other western communities might address their challenges to protect their natural and historic landscapes while they continue to grow and develop."
And so, this is the solution to protect the Hermosa roadless area that remains the largest in Colorado that is threatened by development in private in-holdings at Mitchell Lakes and Hermosa Park. The Forest Service should choose Alternative 1 for no action on their land exchange proposal, and the Save Haviland Area Group then should redirect its energy to find leadership to protect the Hermosa.
The Red Mountain project is an example that there is another way that is a better way. The public does not have to give up anything to have it all.
Sandy Young, Durango