Throwback: Protect RMNP for future generations

September 7, 2017

Over Labor Day weekend 2017 I revisited Rocky Mountain National Park of the first since leaving Colorado in late 2005. The visit got me thinking about how formative the time in Colorado was to my environmental ethic. One of our hard-fought wins was getting nearly the entire park to be designated as wilderness. Below is a small part of that effort.

Protect RMNP for future generations, by Todd Ringler. Published in the Fort Collins Coloradoan on Saturday July 16, 2005.


My dad is not much of a traveler, but the arrival of his first grandchild was enough to lure him to Colorado for the first time in his 61 years. I took him to Rocky Mountain National Park so that he could better understand what keeps me here in Colorado.


We stopped at each of the pullouts, and his reaction at the last stop of the day was the same as the first stop. The snowcapped mountains seem close enough to touch, yet also seem to go on forever. He was never quite able to comprehend the grandness of it all. And that is a beautiful thing.


The vistas are appealing, not only for their scenic beauty, but also because the views evoke a sense of wildness — a wildness that would be destroyed by excessive roads or buildings.


There is now a proposal under consideration that would protect the vistas and the lands of RMNP by designating most of the park as wilderness. The wilderness designation guarantees that new roads and structures would be built in appropriate areas of the park where needed by visitors. The designation will also ensure that the wild and scenic quality of the park will be protected.


At recent town board meetings in Estes Park and Grand Lake, the support for protecting Rocky Mountain National Park with wilderness designation was overwhelming. Many longtime local residents spoke with eloquence and passion about the need to protect this jewel. The local business community is also aware that the official wilderness designation will attract new visitors, and that means more business for the Colorado tourism industry and, in particular, for the gateway communities.


The idea of wildness designation inside Rocky Mountain National Park dates back to President Nixon in 1974. In practice, the park has been managed as a wilderness area for more than 30 years now because this management policy is best for the park and for the visitors of the park.


The people who know this area the best, the National Park Service, feel this area should be designated as wilderness.


So the park stewards and the local residents both feel that designating wilderness area inside the park is the right thing to do. For the sake of the park and for those that enjoy and need the park, we need to make this happen soon.


So when my dad returns next year, my hope is that the park will include tracts of designated wilderness area. When we visit the park, as we surely will, the vistas will be just as grand as they were this year. But I will be able to tell him that what we look out over from Trail Ridge is protected for those that come after us, like his grandchild. And that, too, is a beautiful thing.

On April 9, 2009 Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar joined members of the Colorado congressional delegation and local officials to dedicate the Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness Area, nearly 250,000 acres permanently protected within the park from human impacts under the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009, signed by President Obama March 30.

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