Steve Bennett is not a hiker. His staff must not be hikers either. The field manager for the BLM Colorado River Valley field office out of Silt made that clear in his recent editorial (“Public opinion important in evaluating land exchange,” Aspen Daily News, June 9). He states “even BLM staff must obtain permission to cross private land in order to visit these parcels.” I don’t suppose he has ever heard of Google Earth, either. There are clearly long-existing trails that are visible on Google Earth that lead into this public land. I hiked from one end to another on this delightful piece of land without once setting foot on private property. Yes, it is a hike. Yes, some of it is even uphill, which is actually relished by the hikers among us. Rarity of visitors is no reason to get rid of our public land.
For the deal minded among you, I ask you this: If I handed you a sealed envelope, and promised you there was a signed check inside it, and then asked you to accept it in return for your car, would you take the deal? What if it were your house? No, don’t open the envelope. That is what these managers and land exchange proponents are asking you to do: Accept it on faith there is something of value on the table to trade (they have the appraisals well in hand). They will not let you know or decide on its value, because it is “difficult to access.” Because it is officially difficult to access it will probably be a low value, you can bet. You will not see the appraisals until after the deal is signed, if then. Did you ever see the appraisal values which dealt away other BLM lands in this valley? These are not isolated trades; this privatization of the landscape is a trend, with two local completed exchanges and two pending that I know of. Piece by piece, say good-bye to your open spaces.
David Brower famously said that if he had seen Glen Canyon before the dam was built he never would’ve cut the political deal to trade it away. I respectfully ask the BLM to persuade the proponents to hold another open house regarding the exchange, this time on the property in question, not near it inaccurately pointing to the steepest oak brush hillside on the parcel, as they did in 2009. They do not want you to know what is in the envelope. How can the public decide if it is appropriate to trade this land away without having set foot on it? Trust me, those who have echo David Brower.
For the mountain bikers out there excited to solidify their use of the illegal, trespass trails they built on nearby private parcels, you owe it to yourselves to see the miles of internal trails, the loops, the single- and two-track trails that are ready to go on this public parcel, well north of the sensitive wildlife areas. I know it might be too little, too late, but you ought to see it anyway.
For the rest of us, you owe it to yourselves to see this land before it is private. Find your way in there on your public lands. You won’t regret it.
I am a hiker. I am also a part owner of these lands (one out of 300-some-odd million of us U.S. citizens). I always want to know what is in the envelope. From what I have seen and know about this land exchange, it is not a good deal for the public. Be sure to tell them what you think.