Peak & Prairie
October / November 1999
Colorado Wilderness Bills Need Your Support This Fall
by Dan Fosha, Pikes Peak Group Conservation Co-Chair
Congress is considering no fewer than five different bills to designate Wilderness in Colorado on Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. This is a remarkable testament to the rugged scenery and wild adventure that Colorado wilderness offers, from the Rocky Mountains to the western canyon country.
Colorado Wilderness needs the support of all Americans, and you can send a fax asking your Representative and Senators to support Wilderness through the web site at www.wilderness.org/ccc/fourcorners/colorado/coloradowild.htm.
The Sierra Club and other organizations are actively supporting three of the bills and working to improve the other two, which contain troubling language. Here's information on the five bills and their status:
Colorado Wilderness Act (HR 829) -
For the first time, HR 829 would comprehensively protect lower-elevation canyon country lands managed by the BLM by designating Wilderness on 1.1 million acres of BLM land and 300,000 acres of adjacent USFS lands. HR 829 is supported by a coalition of over 100 conservation and recreation groups, several local governments, and 80 Colorado businesses.
James Peak Wilderness (HR 2177) -
This bill would designate as Wilderness 22,000+ acres of the popular James Peak roadless area in the Arapaho National Forest northwest of Denver. Supported by the Sierra Club and other groups.
Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness (HR 2178)—
HR 2178 would protect 249,562 acres of Rocky Mountain National Park as wilderness (90+percent of Park). The bill is supported by the National Park Service and conservation groups.
Spanish Peaks Wilderness (H.R. 898/S 503)—
The bill would protect as wilderness the towering Spanish Peaks, in the San Isabel National Forest (south-central Colorado near Walsenburg). Unfortunately, this 18,000-acre wilderness bill would open up to motorized travel the old Bulls Eye Mine route deep into the heart of the wilderness, a provision that conservationists are working to remove.
Black Canyon National Park & Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area (S 323/HR 1165)—
These bills expand the boundaries, change the Black Canyon National Monument into a National Park and add 4,400 acres of designated Wilderness. The bills also establish the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area (NCA), and designate the 17,700-acre Gunnison Gorge Wilderness within the NCA. Conservationists have had concerns with language managing Off Road Vehicle use within the area and water rights, and many groups presently have a neutral stance on the bills until some improvements are made.
Please contact your Senators and Representative and ask them to support and strengthen these bills. Some key points to make:
To send a fax to Congress or for more information, go to http://www.wilderness.org/ccc/fourcorners/colorado/coloradowild.htm
Or send a letter and/or make a call to:
Rep. ____, House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515
Sen. ____, Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510
Capitol Hill switchboard: (202) 224-3121.
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