Peak & Prairie
October / November 1999
DeGette Hikes Redcloud and Handies Wilderness
Congresswoman Diana DeGette returned from another wilderness tour after hiking through the Redcloud and Handies wilderness areas encompassed in her Colorado Wilderness Act of 1999. The trip marked DeGette’s second visit to Western Slope wilderness areas since she introduced legislation to provide federal protection to 1.4 million acres of Colorado wilderness in February. The two areas together represent 7 percent of the total acres DeGette has proposed in her bill.
“The positive feedback I received on this trip is very encouraging for the passage of this legislation,” DeGette said after two days of hiking with and discussing wilderness concerns with a number of local parties. “The grassroots support for wilderness echoes what public polls have been saying. Ultimately, it will be this grassroots campaign, not what I do in Congress, that will create the conditions necessary to pass new federal wilderness legislation.”
DeGette was joined on the hike by a number of wilderness supporters and opponents, including representatives from Colorado Cattleman’s Association, the Independent Petroleum Association, the Sierra Club, Western Colorado Congress and Colorado Mountain Club. The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, which manage the lands being considered in the Congresswoman’s Colorado Wilderness Act of 1999 (H.R. 829), also traveled with DeGette to discuss technical and resource issues.
On Friday, August 13, DeGette hiked trails in Handies Peak, a 67,683-acre wilderness area that includes 15 miles of continental divide in Hinsdale and San Juan counties and three peaks over 13,700 feet (Handies, Carson Peak and Pole Creek Mountain). “These peaks form a critical missing link in the larger protected landscape of the San Juan Mountains. After seeing this parcel, I was surprised that it was not included in previous efforts to protect these high alpine areas,” DeGette said.
The following day, DeGette toured the proposed Redcloud Peak wilderness area, 37,719 high altitude acres adjacent to Handies Peak. Nearly all the Redcloud territory, including two fourteeners, is being managed by the BLM as a Wilderness Study Area. Permanent protection for the Redcloud wilderness area will ensure Lake City’s domestic water supply, which comes from wells partially recharged by the Redcloud Peak watershed. “It’s important that we protect Redcloud Peak and ensure that Lake City residents have access to the water they need for decades to come,” DeGette said. DeGette also met with local county commissioners and county administrators to discuss wilderness issues. Most agreed the BLM and Forest Service are underfunded, making effective land management a challenge.
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