Colorado Republican Sen. Wayne Allard hopes that a new wilderness bill will sail through Congress this year. But wilderness advocates have a big bone of contention: a road into the area that Allard wants to keep open.
Peaks Wilderness bill would designate 18,000 acres of wilderness in
San Isabel National Forest, located on the southeastern lip of the
Colorado Rocky Mountains. But the bill would allow the Forest
Service to keep open a road that runs a mile and a half into the
center of the area. A vein of unprotected land, called a "cherry
stem" by the Forest Service, would line the road, which leads high
up on the side of West Spanish Peak to the abandoned Bullseye
silver mine, owned by developer Tom Chapman and his business
"The local community came to us and
said, "We would like to have that road cherry-stemmed," "''''says
Sean Conway, Allard's press secretary. "The road has been used by
locals for generations for Sunday afternoon drives and picnics."
Critics contend the cherry stem is a sweetheart
deal for Chapman, who is known for buying wilderness inholdings and
threatening to develop them unless federal agencies buy him out
(HCN, 2/16/98). "There is no practical use, demand, or really logic
to cherry-stemming that road all the way up to the mine," says Jeff
Widen of the Colorado Environmental Coalition. "That would really
be an arrow in the heart of the Spanish Peaks Wilderness."
Conway insists that Chapman's mining claims have
nothing to do with the cherry stem. "Sen. Allard would never do
anything to try to help Mr. Chapman," he says. "In our mind, he has
used inholdings to extort taxpayers' money."
Adam Burke and Greg Hanscom