Colorado sites named among America’s ‘Best Wild Places’

American Basin and Cinnamon Pass are among the scenic attractions that lure thousands of visitors each year to the Alpine Triangle area south of Lake City. The area recently was listed as among western America’s “Best Wild Places.”

Two of Colorado’s more-isolated backcountry areas have been named among western America’s “Best Wild Places” by Field & Stream magazine and Trout Unlimited.

The Alpine Triangle and the Roan Plateau join four other areas — including the Gila country of southern New Mexico, the Outlaw Triangle country on the Wyoming-Utah border, the Yaak Mountains of northwest Montana, and the Blue Lakes/Pine Forest region of northwest Nevada — on the list.

According to Chris Hunt of Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project, these areas face threats from unnecessary development that could impair their hunting and fishing resources.

“These places are unique and offer some of the best fish and game habitat in the country,” Hunt said in a prepared statement. “Keeping that habitat whole will safeguard our hunting and fishing opportunities in these destinations and ensure the long-term survival of our country’s sporting heritage.”

These are “off-the-radar landscapes” that need attention from sportsmen to retain their hunting and fishing opportunities, said Anthony Licata, editor of Field & Stream. “These places are all located on public land, where anybody can go to hunt and fish. They’re uncrowded and remote, and they offer unparalleled opportunity for the sportsman who wants to experience the best our country has to offer.”

The Alpine Triangle is an immense high-country area, much of it above timberline, bordered by Lake City on the east, Silverton on the southwest and Ouray to the northwest.

According to Trout Unlimited, the area attracts an estimated 300,000 visitors annually who hunt and fish, view the towering peaks and countless wildflowers, explore 195 miles of four-wheel-drive roads, camp, backpack and visit old ghost towns and abandoned mines.

There recently has been renewed interest in mining activity in the area.

“We firmly believe the Triangle is best left just like it is now,” said Ty Churchwell, Trout Unlimited’s southwest Colorado backcountry coordinator. “It took generations for it to recover from the scars of hard-rock mining, and the economy here has shifted to a more sustainable recreation-based formula.”

The Roan Plateau, northwest of Rifle, harbors trophy mule deer and elk along with two isolated populations of genetically pure Colorado River cutthroat trout.

The plateau also is rich in natural gas, and conservationists fear development would dramatically alter the landscape and put at risk water quality and big-game habitat.

“We would like to see a responsible development plan put in place on the Roan that protects these fish and game resources,” said Corey Fisher, energy field coordinator for Trout Unlimited. “We don’t oppose drilling, but we’d like to see it done in a way that protects the long-term, above-ground resources so important to sportsmen.”


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