Peak & Prairie

Rocky Mountain Chapter's
Online Newsletter
December 1997


San Juans, BLM Lands Focus of Annual Wilderness Conference
by Kirk Cunningham, Chapter Conservation Chair

The annual Wilderness and Wild Rivers conference, sponsored by the Sierra Club, Colorado Environmental Coalition, Wilderness Society, and San Juan Citizens Alliance was held just outside Durango the last weekend in September. Saturday was devoted mainly to discussion of the Greater San Juan Ecosystem. Durango area activists have been working for months on a citizens' proposal for management of the San Juan National Forest, and conference participants got to review many aspects of the proposal in slides, talks and maps, as well as hear from Forest Service staff.

Highlights of the comprehensive plan include new proposed wilderness, large roadless areas to provide continuous habitat corridors between the more highly protected wildernesses, looking at how different ecosystem types are represented in various management prescriptions and sustainable timber cutting for locally based sawmills. If you want to know more about the San Juan Citizens' Alliance proposal or how you can help promote it, check with Dan Randolph at (970) 259-3583 or Mark Person at (970) 259-6181 or

David Petersen enthralled the group with slides and great stories about San Juan grizzlies. He advocates three actions in the very remote area where the big bears are most likely to be: remove livestock, especially sheep; ban hunting so a griz is not mistaken for a black bear; and support funding for the use of automatic infrared cameras to document that the last Colorado grizzly is not dead. This would give credibility to the conviction that there is a remnant population and set the stage for strong protection.

The conference initiated revision of the "Conservationists' Wilderness Proposal for BLM Lands," aka the Brown Book. Published in 1994, this book contains descriptions and maps of 48 roadless areas comprising 1.3 million acres, mostly in western Colorado. More than 1 million acres are administered by the BLM, but the agency recommended only about 400,000 for wilderness. The Brown Book is out of print and needs to have better maps, more accurate boundaries and updated information in general to present a vital, compelling picture of the wilderness opportunity. Volunteers are needed for a variety of tasks. Contact Jean Smith, 1308 St. Paul St., Denver, CO 80206, (303) 388-3378 or