Wandering through the rich, varied forest along the Ute Trail is a magical experience. Small dark ponds, unique rock formations, splendid meadows, and sweeping views across the Colorado River Valley to Castle Peak and the Gore, Sawatch and Elk Mountain ranges make this area well worth protecting. This mid-elevation forest area with its easy hiking is an important addition to the Flat Tops Wilderness and our national wilderness system.
Richard Compton, Carbondale
The Flat Tops Wilderness Addition includes the BLM's Hack Lake WSA and adjacent national forest lands. Hack Lake provides a dramatic access to the Flat Tops Wilderness area. From the trailhead at Sweetwater Lake Lodge, Ute Trail, and W Mountain Trail visitors pass through a fascinating succession of life zones up to the palisades of the White River Flat Tops.
The trail climbs
from sage, oakbrush, juniper, and pinyon pines to moist swamp
areas and aspen-fir forests in an ecologically significant
transition. Hack Creek pours out of the hillside, draining
underground from Hack Lake on the shelf above. The lake, which
has no stream entering or leaving it, is situated in spruce-fir
forest. Beyond, the forest rolls up to summit cliffs. With each
gain in elevation, a greater panorama unfolds, taking in the
Gore Range and the northern Sawatch Range to the east and the
massive peaks of the Elk Range to the south.
The Flat Tops Addition has an abundance and diversity of wildlife, including large herds of deer and elk, mountain lion, coyote, badger, blue grouse, and beaver. The cliffs of the area provide excellent habitat for golden eagles. Other birds include Coopers and sharp-shinned hawks, goshawks, teal, and mallards.
Division of Wildlife recently reintroduced a herd of 20 bighorn
sheep in Derby Creek, north of Hack Lake. The bighorns prefer
the canyons and valleys of the Hack Lake area as opposed to the
high elevation lands within the adjacent Flat Tops Wilderness.
The Flat Tops Addition provides an important anchor for this
bighorn herd by preserving the low-elevation habitat needed for
the herd to prosper.
A fragment of the
Ute Trail system, which only a century ago connected the whole
state, adds a special historic aspect to the proposed wilderness
addition. This trail segment was a major migration route between
far western Colorado and the upper Colorado River valley.
The only locatable mineral suspected within the area is
gypsum, considered uneconomic compared to other more accessible
deposits. Flat Tops Addition has low potential for oil and gas
resources, and contains no mineral leases.
There are active grazing allotments in the area.
Parts of Flat Tops
Addition are covered by spruce-fir forest which provides a
potential base for timber harvest. However, due to the
relatively small quantities and lack of access, this timber has
low commercial value.
BLM recognizes the high recreation and wildlife values of the area and its management calls for no-surface-occupancy leasing of minerals, no timber harvesting, and a ban on off-road vehicles in order to preserve the area's natural character and opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation.
designation will ensure the protection of these identified high
The proposed Forest
Service additions in the north are mainly spruce-fir forests,
while the lands to the west contain substantial amounts of
aspen. They are managed by the White River National Forest for
semi-primitive, non-motorized recreation. Wilderness designation
of these lands clearly meshes with the identified management
The Flat Tops Addition
is a headwaters area, adjacent to and below the Flat Tops
Wilderness. A small water diversion project is located on Turret
Creek in the western Forest Service wilderness addition.
Citizens propose designation of the entire BLM Hack Lake WSA
as well as an additional 13,000 acres of adjacent roadless
Forest Service lands.
The Flat Tops
Wilderness boundary already drops below the Flat Tops rim in the
Turret Creek drainage and in numerous other locations. The
proposed boundary extensions will simply align the new boundary
along readily identifiable features such as ridge lines and
valley bottoms, while providing for the addition of lovely Hack
Lake and surrounding forests to the Flat Tops. The primary
Forest Service addition encompasses the headwaters of Red Dirt