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Wilderness as marketing

Brief by Central Staff

Wilderness – May 2007 – Colorado Central Magazine

The American philosopher Henry David Thoreau once observed that “in Wildness is the preservation of the World.” It may also be a marketing tool these days.

During the April congressional recess, Rep. Doug Lamborn visited Chaffee County to listen to supporters and opponents of the proposed Brown’s Canyon Wilderness Area.

It covers about 20,000 acres in northeastern Chaffee County, from the railroad tracks east to the ridge that divides Arkansas River from South Platte drainage. Congress appeared ready to pass a wilderness bill last fall, but opposition from the National Rifle Association (on the grounds that limiting motorized vehicle access was somehow an infringement on the right to keep and bear arms) stalled the Brown’s Canyon proposal.

It had been supported by all of Colorado’s congressional delegation, including Rep. Joel Hefley, and it was in his district. He retired and Lamborn succeeded him. Lamborn hasn’t favored wilderness designation, but said he might be persuaded.

So there’s the background. Now the marketing. At Lamborn’s meeting with wilderness supporters, Joe Greiner, a river outfitter, said “I want to be able to promote that. I think that would be a great marketing angle for us: ‘Come visit Browns Canyon wilderness.’ That’s probably going to headline most of my marketing.”

It would also be deceptive, since the river and the adjacent railroad tracks, along with irrigation ditch headgates and channels and the like, would not be in the wilderness area. Floaters would not be passing through an Official Wilderness Area, any more than they do now.

It’s similar to the promotion of float trips on the “free-flowing Arkansas River.” While it’s true that there’s no dam across the main stem of the river above Pueblo Reservoir, it’s also true that the flow of the upper Arkansas is quite controlled since there are dams on its major tributaries, and much of the summer flow depends on water diverted from the Western Slope.

Oh well. As the reporter character said in the movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”