Peak & Prairie
compiled by Mark Pearson & Jean Smith, Chapter Wilderness Co-chairs
BLM Wilderness Lands Issue Heating Up!
Some of Colorado's BLM canyon country is getting a second chance at Wilderness!
As a first step toward protection of about 190,000 acres of canyon country wilderness, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) conducted an unprecedented re-survey of six roadless areas proposed for wilderness designation in 1994 by Colorado conservationists: Vermillion Basin, Yampa River, Pinyon Ridge, South Shale Ridge, Bangs Canyon, and Castle Peak.
Conservationists, OHV, ranching and oil and gas representatives participated in the field surveys of all six areas. BLM released its preliminary findings in early September. Although some specific conclusions will be disputed, the findings came down largely on the side of roadlessness, confirming the position of the conservation community.
Now that their roadless character has been vindicated, BLM will assess whether they meet the other criteria for wilderness--solitude, primitive recreational opportunities, and minimal human impact--and thus deserve status as Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs). A meeting with BLM's State Director Ann Morgan did not clarify exactly what the second stage of the process will look like, but there will be an opportunity for public input.
The counties have mounted an attack on the process. In turn, environmentalists, including the Sierra Club's Uncompahgre Group, have counter-attacked, forming the Mesa County Wilderness Coalition (see article Page 1). For more information or to help, contact Jean Smith, (303) 388-3378; firstname.lastname@example.org, Mark Pearson, (970) 259-6181, email@example.com, or Vicki Mercer, (970) 464-0502, firstname.lastname@example.org, from Sierra Club; Suzanne Jones at the Wilderness Society, (303) 650-5818, suzanne_jones@TWS.org; or Jeff Widen at Colorado Environmental Coalition, (970) 884-1356, email@example.com.
Rio Grande River Corridor Comment Period Extended
The BLM has extended to December 20 the comment deadline for its Rio Grande Corridor management plan for the corridor south of Alamosa (see article in October/November Peak & Prairie). If you couldn't make the original October 1 deadline, you still have time. We must support BLM in its decision to close miles of roads, especially along the gorge south of Lobatos Bridge. This closing would clear away a major stumbling block to the designation of a Rio Grande Wilderness.
Address letters to CRMP Team Leader, BLM Taos Resource Area, 226 Cruz Alta Road, Taos, NM 87571, fax (505) 758-1620. Copy your comments to Carlos Pinto, Mgr., BLM San Luis Resource Area, 1921 State St., Alamosa, CO 81101. For talking points, see Page 10 of the October/November P&P.
New Agency Heads
Both the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service have new top leadership in the region. Ann Morgan has just begun her tenure as state director of Colorado BLM. Already she has heard the concerns of conservation groups about the 8 million acres of BLM lands under her jurisdiction. BLM has recommended 400,000 acres for wilderness designation, but conservationists believe more than 1 million acres are eligible.
Region II of the Forest Service, which covers five states, as of early November has a new regional forester, Lyle Laverty. Conservationists are looking forward to an early appointment to discuss concerns about forest plan revisions, logging in roadless areas, ski resort expansions and many other issues.