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Colorado: More political diddling over modest land bill

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Will Colorado get a new wilderness area this year?

Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act passed by Senate committee

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — In what may become a Christmas miracle, Congress is poised to actually pass a land protection measure before the end of the session. Lawmakers this week said they reached a compromise on a bill to protect the Hermosa Creek watershed near Durango.

As written, the legislation would create a 70,000-acre special management area and a 37,000-acre Wilderness area in the San Juan National Forest. The compromise includes opening a huge section of alpine backcountry around Molas Divide to snowmobiling. Continue reading

Forest Service to revisit SoCal wilderness protections

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More wilderness in Southern California?

Roadless lands to be evaluated for wilderness qualities

Staff Report

FRISCO —In a rare administrative reversal, regional U.S. Forest Service officials told the Los Padres National Forest to reconsider its plans for seven roadless areas encompassing more than 220,000 acres in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Kern counties.

The decision directs forest planners to reevaluate the wilderness characteristics of seven areas and clarify how biologists will monitor and protect imperiled wildlife. Continue reading

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Federal agencies unveil 2020 wilderness vision

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Wildflowers in the Eagles Nest Wilderness area in Summit County, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Finalizing inventories, planning for climate resilience are high on the agenda

Staff Report

FRISCO — Federal land managers say they want complete wilderness area inventories develop climate-change vulnerability and adaptation studies across 110 million acres of wilderness lands in the U.S. in the next five years as part of an interagency wilderness vision for 2020.

The plan is aimed at ensuring continued preservation of the lands that make up the National Wilderness Preservation System across the jurisdictions of various agencies that manage wilderness lands, including the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Continue reading

Public Lands: Forest Service chief says journalists won’t have to pay to take photos in wilderness areas

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Sunrise in the Eagles Nest Wilderness, Gore Range, Colorado.

Forest Service chief clarifies proposed directive on commercial permits

By Summit Voice

FRISCO —After a few days of scathing news reports and commentaries, the U.S. Forest Service made it clear that a new policy on wilderness photography and filming won’t apply to journalists or visitors taking snapshots for their own use.

The update came from Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, who said in a prepared statement that the agency is committed to the First Amendment.

“To be clear, provisions in the draft directive do not apply to news gathering or activities,” Tidwell said, going on to describe the agency’s effort standardize permitting and to ensure that the public gets fair value for commercial activities in wilderness areas. Continue reading

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

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

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