Peak & Prairie

Rocky Mountain Chapter's
Online Newsletter
December 1997


Counties Mount BLM Wilderness Attack
by Vicki Mercer, Uncompahgre Group Chair

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has re-surveyed six roadless areas, about 190,000 acres, proposed for wilderness designation by Colorado conservationists in 1994. Now that their roadless character has been vindicated, BLM will assess whether they meet the other criteria for wilderness and status as wilderness study areas (WSA's) (see Wildlands Update Page ***).

Soon after the BLM's favorable but preliminary determinations were announced, foes of wilderness on the Western Slope went on the attack. A Grand Junction Daily Sentinel article on October 22 headlined, "4 counties eye lawsuit over BLM wilderness designation," reported that Mesa, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Garfield Counties are "leading the charge to fight the creation of BLM wilderness areas."

Mesa County Commissioner Doralyn Genova said these counties are following the lead of Utah counties and that they are trying to get Colorado Counties Inc. (CCI) to lead the fight. She said that the counties are considering seeking legislation to stop the creation of wilderness and return wilderness study areas (WSA's) to multiple use. (They have interim protection that is supposed to protect their wilderness characteristics.) Some other counties in CCI seem to oppose having CCI do this, and this seems to be a very divisive issue within the organization.

On October 23 a Daily Sentinel article headlined, "Counties disagree on ways to halt wilderness studies," quoted Mesa County Commissioner Kathy Hall as saying, "They (Moffat, Rio Blanco, and/or Garfield Counties) think the only way to do this is sue the BLM. There are other ways to skin a cat." Mesa County prefers to "solve the problem through federal legislation," and has discussed hiring a private attorney or the less expensive Mountain States Legal Foundation, the leading conservative "public" interest law firm in the mountain states.

A Daily Sentinel editorial the same day encouraged Mesa County to hold off on a lawsuit, because no existing roads or uses are being cut off. It opined that Genova's suggestion to work with Congress to have the areas withdrawn was "not a bad idea, but better to wait until February to see what sort of management changes, if any at all, the BLM proposes for the six areas."


Environmentalists Counter-Attack

In response the Western Colorado Congress, Concerned Citizens Resource Association, Sierra Club's Uncompahgre Group, Grand Valley Audubon Society, Colorado Mountain Club Western Slope Group and several individuals met in early November to form the Mesa County Wilderness Coalition. We are recruiting more local coalition partners.

We held a press conference the week after the Sentinel articles appeared to announce the coalition and discuss why and how citizens should encourage the Mesa County Commissioners to abandon their attack. The coalition was scheduled to meet later in November to discuss strategy. Coalition representatives met with Commissioner Jim Baughman. Although he opposes BLM WSA's and wilderness in general, we think we should take him to Bangs Canyon to try to make him see our viewpoint. Representatives were also trying to meet with Commissioners Genova and Hall. It will take a groundswell of local opposition to get Mesa County's commissioners to back off.

What You Can Do:

We welcome help from interested Sierra Club members. First, please call your county's representative on CCI's Public Lands Committee and encourage him or her to vote against attempts by western Colorado counties to stop BLM's process for adding approximately 190,000 Wilderness Study Areas acres. A list of Public Lands Committee members (sorted by County) appears below. All counties in Colorado except Boulder are members.


Colorado Counties, Inc. Public Lands Committee
County County
Name Telephone
Alamosa Y Robert Zimmerman (719) 589-3841
Archuleta Y Robert Formwalt (970) 264-2536
Baca Y Don Self (719) 523-6532
Bent Y John Roesch (719) 456-1600
Chaffee Y Frank McMurray (719) 539-2218
Cheyenne Y Jerry Allen (719) 767-5872
Clear Creek N Mark Sprague (303) 534-5777
Crowley Y Harry Doak (719) 267-3248
Custer Y Larry Handy (719) 783-2552
Delta Y Jim Ventrello (970) 874-2100
Dolores N Jerry Martin (970) 677-2257
Douglas Y James Sullivan (303) 660-7401
Eagle Y George Gates (970) 328-8605
El Paso Y Betty Beady (719) 520-6444
Elbert Y Daniel McAndrew (303) 621-3139
Fremont Y Keith McNew (719) 275-1515
Garfield Y Marian Smith (970) 945-1377
Gilpin Y Craig Nicholson (303) 582-5214
Grand Y Paul Ohri (970) 725-3347
Gunnison Y Marlene Zanetell (970) 641-0248
Hinsdale N Ray Blaum (970) 944-2225
Jackson Y Dennis Brinker (970) 723-4660
La Plata Y Shirley Baty (970) 382-6219
Lake Y James Morrison (719) 486-3972
Larimer Y John Clarke (970) 498-7001
Logan Y Lyle Schumacher (970) 522-0888
Moffat Y T. Wright Dickinson (970) 824-5517
Montezuma N Bill Streigel (970) 565-8868
Montrose Y Cindy Bowen (970) 249-7755
Morgan Y Mark Arndt (970) 867-8202
Otero Y Jake Klein (719) 383-3000
Ouray Y Alan Staehle (970) 325-7320
Phillips Y Keith Sharpe (970) 854-2454
Prowers Y John Stulp (719) 336-9001
Rio Blanco Y Don Davis (970) 675-2087
Rio Grande Y Melvin Getz (719) 657-2744
Routt Y Ben Beall (970) 879-0108
Saguache Y Mike Oliver (719) 655-2231
San Miguel Y Art Goodtimes (970) 728-3844
Sedgwick Y Raymond Andersen (970) 474-2485
Summit N Scott Hobsen (970) 453-2561
Teller Y Jerry Bergeman (719) 689-2988
Washington Y Jack Crumley (970) 345-2701
Weld Y George Baxter (970) 356-4000
Yuma Y Rowe Shively (970) 332-5796
To help or for more information contact Vicki Mercer, (970) 464-0502 or