Peak & Prairie
Rocky Mountain Chapter's
June / July 1998
BLM Wilderness Campaign
by Mark Pearson and Jean Smith, Chapter Wilderness & Ecosystem Mapping Co-chairs
After ten years in the halls of Congress, the 1993 Colorado Wilderness Act finally designated 612,000 acres as Wilderness and another 100,000 acres as areas for special protective management. This brought Colorado's total wilderness to more than 3.3 million acres, most of it at higher elevations on National Forests. In 1994, the Conservationists' Wilderness Proposal for BLM Lands detailed more than 1.3 million acres of additional lands in 48 parcels - 77% of it managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) - which met wilderness criteria. The 48 parcels include lands from the Arkansas Valley on the east, the San Luis Valley on the south, the tiny North Platte River addition on the north to the large swath of red rock canyons in western Colorado. Recently, the BLM conducted additional reviews of six of the areas, which quickly put them in the public eye. Momentum has been building in at least two Congressional delegate's offices to introduce wilderness legislation for these low elevation lands. Wilderness legislation gives permanent protection for many rare plant and animal species, and provides opportunities for wilderness recreation and solitude to offset the extensive motorized recreation elsewhere on public lands.
State-wide campaign begins
In April, representatives from the Sierra Club, the Colorado Environmental Coalition (CEC), The Wilderness Society, the National and Colorado Wildlife Federations, the Colorado Mountain Club, the League of Conservation Voters, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the LAW Fund of the Rockies and the Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project identified goals and objectives for a major Colorado Wilderness campaign over the next two years. The steering committee includes CEC, Sierra Club, Wilderness Society and Western Colorado Congress representatives. Three task forces will work on interim protection for the nominated parcels, organizing support and crafting the legislation. The Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club endorsed this campaign at its April Executive Committee meeting.
Important Senate hearing in Grand Junction Saturday June 6
Now, the first big event is upon us!
Sen. Allard requested that the Senate Subcommittee on Forests and Public Lands Management, chaired by Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), conduct a field hearing on proposed BLM wildernesses. If you can get to Grand Junction on June 6th., you can join others who support protection for these areas. The hearing will be held at the Avalon Theater, 645 Main St., beginning at 8 A.M. Early information indicates there will be four panels of several people each who will testify: BLM officials, county commissioners, representatives from Club 20 and wilderness advocates. It is not clear whether the public will also be allowed to speak.
Many activities are planned for that weekend. Two things need to be delivered at the hearing, according to CEC organizer Jeff Widen: "Large numbers of people, and a well thought out panel of witnesses. Due to the poll just released showing 80% of Coloradans supporting BLM wilderness, and because this will be the first event in this campaign that will be highly visible to the public and media, it is incumbent on us to demonstrate how much support we have on the West slope for wilderness." Jeff and others from the Colorado Wilderness Campaign are organizing pro-wilderness witnesses and encouraging supportive county commissioners to be on the panel. There will be a rally, buses from Durango and the Front Range, camping for out-of-towners, t-shirts, a celebration, hikes, direct mail and phone bank alerts, press conferences and many other events. As of the Peak and Prairie deadline, we did not have all the details, and by the time you receive this, the witness panel will be decided. But we still need all of you, so please call the following people for more information and to volunteer to help.
Saturday event logistics, including rally, camping, food, celebratory event, and Sunday activities: Matt, Pete, Monica, Jeff. Phone banking volunteers for June reminder calls: Matt or Pete for Grand Junction, Matt for Montrose, Jeff for Durango, Monica for Denver. Buses: Monica from Front Range and Jeff from Durango. Schedule of press events: Monica, Jeff, Pete. General information: Any of the above, plus Mark or Jean. Monica Piergrossi, Denver, (303) 534-7066, firstname.lastname@example.org Jeff Widen, Durango, 970-970-884-1356, email@example.com Pete Kolbenschlag, Grand Junction, 970-243-0002, firstname.lastname@example.org Matt Sura, Grand Junction, (970) 256-7650, email@example.com Jean Smith, Denver, firstname.lastname@example.org, (303) 388-3378 Mark Pearson, Durango, email@example.com, (970) 259-6181
Other things you can do:
* Organize letter writing parties with your friends or local conservation group to support wilderness in general or particular areas. Letters can go to BLM, the Congressional delegation and to the newspapers.
* Recruit and/or lead outings to any of the 48 proposed BLM wilderness areas. This can be done through your local Sierra Club and/or the Chapter outings leader Roger Wendell at (303) 693-4244 or firstname.lastname@example.org
* Research additional biological and wilderness values for proposed wilderness areas.
* Coordinate and/or participate in field trips this summer to finalize the proposed Wilderness boundaries. This will be coordinated through the Campaign Steering Committee.
* Raise money to re-publish the Conservationists' Wilderness Proposal, known as the Brown Book.
* Plan wilderness slide shows for your group or community. Contact Monica, Jeff, Pete or Matt.
* Get on a listserver, if you want to be involved in the details and receive email alerts. Vicki Mercer from Uncompahgre Group is encouraging us all to use "co-wilderness." To subscribe, send email to Majordomo@igc.org with the following command in the body of your message: subscribe co-wilderness <your email address>. You will receive a welcome message back. Or put yourself on the Chapter ecosystem listserver - RMC-CONS-ECOSYSTEMS. Follow instructions found on the web page sidebar at http://www.sieraclub.org/chapters/co. If you need help locating a contact for any of the above or need resource materials, check with Mark or Jean.