U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette on Monday announced the introduction of the Colorado Wilderness Act of 2013, which proposes "a balanced approach" to protect 31 wilderness areas and two potential wilderness areas, totaling approximately 750,000 acres, across the state.
"From Carbondale to Colorado Springs, from Denver to Durango — our state has a remarkable outdoor heritage with treasured landscapes and an abundance of natural resources," DeGette wrote on her website to introduce the legislation. "Without a doubt, our quality of life and the strength of our state is enhanced tremendously from our state’s magnificent public lands."
DeGette, a fourth-generation Coloradoan, said in a press release that "these special lands not only provide clean air, clean water and critical wildlife habitat, they help drive tourism as our state’s number one economic engine. It is critically important we protect these remaining wild areas so that future generations have access to the same benefits we enjoy today. That is why I am so pleased that after traveling across the state for many years to engage the public and relevant stakeholders, this proposal has received great support as a way to secure the lands that are so important to so many Coloradoans.”
Over the past several years, population growth and corresponding demands have placed increasing pressure on our public lands and resources. For example, 13.6 percent of Bureau of Land Management land in Colorado is leased for oil and gas activities, while 2.6 percent is protected wilderness.
The bill recognizes the need for balanced use of our public lands, and as such, maintains existing grazing, oil and gas, and mineral rights, DeGette said in a press release. The areas proposed for wilderness designation are primarily BLM mid-elevation lands and lower-lying canyons. Many of these low-lying areas are underrepresented in the National Wilderness Preservation System, according to DeGette.
“The 2013 Conservation in the West Poll by Colorado College found very strong support for premier public lands as being an essential part of the state’s economy and necessary to attract high quality jobs and employers; three-fourths or more of Republicans, Independents and Democrats alike surveyed register such support showing land protection is not a partisan issue,” said Prof. Walter Hecox, the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project faculty director who joined the congresswoman in a press conference Monday.
DeGette said she's been integrating public comments on this legislation for 14 years and that she will continue to do so as she works to get it passed. To see a map of her proposed designations, click here.