A guest post by Aaron Clark, IMBA Conservation Manager
The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) has been collaborating with the conservation community in Colorado to help re-craft and vet a land protection proposal in Colorado's Central Mountains and more recently on lands in Colorado's Gunnison County. These proposals intend to protect both the wild and remote backcountry landscapes of these areas through diverse designations, as well as the world class recreational opportunities and the economy that it supports. Mountain bikers cherish these lands and want to protect them and have reached out to help. With landscape additions and a few adjustments, IMBA is confident that the proposals can attract a broader base of support, and increase the likelihood of success in the future.
In general, IMBA believes that land protection packages should expand on traditional designations and included more Special Management Areas for places that do not qualify as Wilderness.
Before IMBA became involved, numerous members of the MTB community joined in with the motorized community in vocally criticizing the land protection efforts underway in Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Gunnison Counties known as "Hidden Gems". Many slapped "No H.G." stickers on their cars and wrote LTE's opposing the proposal. People were concerned with both real and perceived threats. IMBA set to work in addressing both issues through education and amendments to the proposal in order to secure broad support. This concept has been embraced by the conservation community.
IMBA has witnessed firsthand the progress that collaboration has led to on these proposals. With the goal of dispelling the myths and concerns and showing the progress made, IMBA organized numerous meetings in these counties including a set of educational Open Houses in Summit and Eagle Counties with local chapter Summit Fat Tire Society and Vail Valley Mountain Bike Alliance to help discuss the proposal. The open houses drew nearly 100 attendees, which included motorized representatives, local elected officials, local business owners, conservationists, and area mountain bikers. Tough questions were asked yet opposition was not voiced. Meanwhile in Gunnsion County, IMBA has worked to draft a joint land protection proposal with numerous groups in both the sportsman and conservation communities. Proof again that collaboration early on is far more productive!
IMBA also spent the summer working on a short film that depicts IMBA's work on the Central Mountain's proposal. This film is due out this winter and in true double entendre form, has been given the name "Crossing the Divide". The goal is for the film to help further generate broad support.
Continuing in the spirit of working together, in early Nov. 2013, IMBA co-presented with Wilderness advocates to an Eco-Flight (an Aspen-based small non-profit conservation outfit that uses small aircraft to provide aerial perspectives for land conservation) student program about the value of diverse designations and broad support for proposals in today's political environment. You can read more about this story at: http://www.aspendailynews.com/section/home/160118
Photo: Daniel Dunn