I want to commend the Rio Grande National Forest (RGNF) Planning Committee on their outreach efforts to receive public comments regarding the revised Forest Plan. I am writing to strongly support the conservation designations in Alternative D which are based on two years of research and ground-proofing and protect our watersheds, wildlife populations, and opportunities for solitude.
As a business owner in the San Luis Valley, and as Founder and CEO of The Way Nature, an international organization with branches in over thirty countries with headquarters in Crestone, Colorado, the Rio Grande National Forest is critical to me, my community, and the many members of my organization, on many levels. Our headquarters borders the RGNF, and the wilderness areas provide a setting of beauty, inspiration and opportunity for personal cultivation, which motivates people from all over the world to participate in our programs. The Way of Nature employs a core staff in Saguache County to run programs. We bring in hundreds of people annually, which has a significant impact on our local economy’s restaurants, B&Bs, grocery stores, and other local service providers. Many participants have become residents after experiencing our programs and the wilderness qualities of the RGNF.
I feel strongly that oil and gas extraction from our public lands should be the lowest priority of their multiple use management requirements. This is simply due to the fact, not theory, that oil and gas extraction contributes significantly to global climate change. In addition, it has severe negative impacts on the wilderness values, specifically serious air and water pollution. By implementing the conservation designations outlined in Alternative D and not allowing oil and gas activities within these areas, recommended wilderness, wildlife connectivity areas, Special Interest Areas and native fish areas would be protected from the destruction implicit with oil and gas extraction. It will also protect hunting and fishing grounds. Protecting these natural wilderness values will be good for our new economy, based upon wilderness and wildlands, that is rapidly expanding in southern Colorado and bringing new and sustainable economic opportunities for young people just starting out in life and who are seeking fulfilling livelihoods. Allowing oil and gas exploration would irreparably destroy this rapidly growing new economy.
Former Professor of Ecology and Environmental Studies,
John P. Milton