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Colorado wilderness bills bottled up in Congress

Half a dozen proposals for land protection span more than 1 million acres

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Proposed new wilderness areas include open meadows on the west flank of the Williams Fork Range. bberwyn photo.

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The proposed Acorn Creek wilderness addition would add important wildlife habitat to the existing high-elevation Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness Area.

By Bob Berwyn

*Click here to learn more about this weekend’s hike in proposed new Summit County wilderness area

SUMMIT COUNTY — There may be a huge backlog of wilderness bills in Congress, but conservation advocates aren’t about to give up on their efforts to preserve public lands in Colorado. Read more about the political wrangling over wilderness in this Summit Voice story.

In fact, the recent oil and gas boom on the Western Slope has recharged wilderness protection efforts, as supporters rally around the new “equal ground” theme, asking President Obama and Congress to protect at least as many acres as are allocated for energy development.

Along with being ecologically important, protected areas are increasingly seen as critical to the region’s recreation economy. Protected areas also enhance property values in adjacent communities.

In Colorado, there are six proposals that would expand wilderness by more than 1 million acres. The biggest is U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette‘s Colorado Wilderness Act, which includes 31 areas for a total of 750,000 acres, including many chunks of mid-elevation lands that are crucial for wildlife. Continue reading

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New wilderness push launched in Congress

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette introduces far-reaching conservation bill

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A wilderness bill pending in Congress would protect about 750,000 acres in Colorado.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Facing an uphill battle in Congress, U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (CO-1) this week launched a new push for more wilderness in Colorado. The Colorado Wilderness Act of 2013 would protect 31 wilderness areas and two potential wilderness areas, totaling about 750,000 acres, across the state. Continue reading

Will Congress finally take a look at new wilderness?

Public lands advocates hopeful that bipartisan support will help move some measures through the House

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The peaks of the Eagles Nest Wilderness in Colorado’s Gore Range. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Public lands advocates are hopeful that Congress will advance at least some of the public lands wilderness bills that have been bottled up by a partisan divide the past couple of years.

The 112th Congress was the first in in almost 50 years that didn’t add to the National Wilderness Preservation System, but several pending bills that have already gained approval from a key U.S. Senate committee have bipartisan backing and solid local support.

This week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee cleared measures to safeguard public land in Colorado, Oregon and Nevada. These join five measures approved earlier. The eight bills together would safeguard nearly 300,000 acres, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts public lands program. Continue reading

Colorado: Hermosa Creek conservation bill gets a bipartisan introduction in Congress

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The Hermosa Creek drainage near Durango is geting some bipartisan love in Congress.

Local stakeholder consensus may provide momentum for managment plan that includes modest amount of new wilderness

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Colorado lawmakers in Washington, D.C. are reaching across party lines to try and protect more than 100,000 acres of the Hermosa Creek watershed north of Durango.

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Rep. Scott Tipton(R-CO) are introducing companion bills that would establish management for the Hermosa Creek Watershed based on recommendations from the Hermosa Creek River Protection Workgroup. The panel includes local water officials, conservationists, sportsmen, mountain bikers, off-road-vehicle users, outfitters, property owners, grazing permit holders and other interested citizens.

“We are lucky in Colorado to be able to enjoy many of the country’s most beautiful landscapes in our backyards. The Hermosa Creek Watershed represents some of the best Colorado has to offer,” Bennet said. “This bill will protect this land for our outdoor recreation economy and for future generations of Coloradans and Americans to enjoy. It is the result of a local effort that took into account the varied interests of the community, and that cooperation helped us put together a strong bill with the community’s input.” Continue reading

Colorado: Sen. Udall hosts session on Browns Canyon plan

Cherished stretch of river lands up for better protection

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If you have questions about the Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness proposal, head over the Nathrop Saturday, April 13, when Sen. Mark Udall will host a listening session to get community feedback that will help fine-tune the plan.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Residents of central Colorado will get a chance to offer some input on a proposed new wilderness area along the Arkansas River this weekend (Saturday, April 13), when Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) holds a listening session in Nathrop. The session is set for 10 a.m. at Noah’s Ark Whitewater Rafting Company, 23910 U.S. Highway 285 in Nathrop.

Udall’s draft proposal for the Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness Area is based on more than a year’s worth of community input. It would cover 22,000 acres between Salida and Buena Vista on the Arkansas River, including 10,500 acres of new wilderness. Continue reading

Opinion: Vail’s legacy includes wilderness

Udall’s wilderness plan good for wildlife, good for people

Wilderness helps protect water quality in the high country.

By Dr. Tom Steinberg

This year as we celebrate Vail’s 50th anniversary, I reflect on the people and attitudes that made this place blossom from a sheep pasture into a world class resort. Vail pioneers came here for the place – the beautiful mountains and great skiing. We came for a lifestyle of being in nature and appreciating it for all its challenges and wildness. Like anyone who succeeds in life, we had grit, determination, creativity and resilience.

Within a decade of Vail’s birth we began working hard to ensure our future by seeking wilderness protection for the stunningly beautiful lands around us. We held “wilderness walks” through town, wrote thousands of letters to decision makers, hiked the Gore and Holy Cross areas with community leaders and talked with anyone who cared to hear about protecting the resources that we saw as integral to the long-term future of the resort and the community.

We understood that the natural capital of this region is finite. We knew that in order to maintain the goose that was laying our golden eggs and create a sustainable tourism economy for our future, we needed to make regular deposits into the natural capital fund, by protecting streams, wildlife habitat, migration corridors, and forests from the biggest threat they faced, which was us – the growing human population. Continue reading

Colorado: Vail Resorts boosts new wilderness plan

Eagles Nest Wilderness, Gore Range, Colorado. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Sen. Mark Udall still seeking community consensus for new national forest designations in White River NF

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A proposal to add more wilderness and other specially designated conservation and recreation areas in the White River National Forest got support from a key economic stakeholder last week, as Vail Resorts announced support for what’s now being called the central mountains wilderness proposal.

“The special nature of the economies in Colorado’s resort communities relies on the successful balance of offering thoughtfully developed recreation opportunities on our public lands with the preservation of pristine wilderness areas,” said Beth Ganz, Vail Resorts vice president of public affairs and sustainability. “Vail Resorts is proud to support this effort to strike that important balance. We believe this proposal and the protections it will provide are critical for Colorado.”

“The areas under consideration in Eagle and Summit counties have been identified as important ecological areas that provide wildlife habitat and serve as our community watersheds, including Hoosier Ridge near Breckenridge and West Lake Creek outside of Edwards. These areas will benefit greatly from the contemplated higher levels of protection and will contribute to the quality of life in our iconic mountain communities,” Vail Resorts announced on its web site. Continue reading

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