Udall Introduces Bill to Expand San Juan Mountain Wilderness
Today, Mark Udall announced that he has introduced a bill to preserve some of the state's most iconic public lands in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado.
The San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act would designate 33,000 acres as wilderness - mostly as expansions of the existing Lizard Head and Mount Sneffels wilderness areas - and establish a new area called McKenna Peak, which presides over imposing sandstone cliffs rising 2,000 feet above the plain. It would also designate about 22,000 acres as a special management area and withdraw over 6,000 acres within Naturita Canyon from mineral entry.
The bill, which is co-sponsored by Senator Michael Bennet, reflects extensive collaboration done over several years with local leaders and interested stakeholders. As a result, it is supported by all three affected counties and numerous stakeholders. Udall and Bennet previously introduced the bill in 2009 with former Congressman John Salazar.
Altogether, the bill would preserve more than 61,000 acres - a region that includes two "fourteeners" (peaks over 14,000 feet high) and the sole water supply of the town of Ridgway - while also accommodating the various ongoing uses of the area, such as for water and recreation. Outdoor recreation groups supporting the bill say it will bolster the area's economy. For example, protecting habitat will strengthen the deer and elk herds that winter in the area and already draw thousands of hunters each year.
"This is how wilderness can and should be done," Udall said. "I'm proud to fight for this incredibly special part of our state. Not only will this bill ensure generations of Coloradans will be able to enjoy its stunning beauty, but it will also help create jobs and boost the economy of the entire area."
"Hikers, outfitters, hunters, anglers and others interested in wildlife and the outdoors will continue to be drawn to the area, sparking more hospitality and recreation-related business," Udall continued. "Despite the down economy, outdoor recreation is a strong and growing sector of the economy - one we should nurture and that will benefit everyone in the state."
These proposals were developed in a collaborative process, and Coloradans who have input or questions about the maps are encouraged to share their comments. An easy-to-fill out contact form is available on the website along with maps of the proposed wilderness at http://markudall.senate.gov/sanjuan/.