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Udall Announces Overwhelming Local Support for San Juan Mountains Wilderness

Posted: Thursday, September 29, 2011

Today, Mark Udall said he was pleased to announce that a large group of citizens, local leaders and other stakeholders from across southwestern Colorado have officially come out in support of his proposed San Juan Mountains Wilderness bill.  They include the Ouray, San Miguel and San Juan county commissions, the city of Ouray and the towns of Ophir, Ridgway, Mountain Village, Telluride and Norwood as well as local homeowners' associations and landowners.  Udall expects to make another announcement about support from local businesses and recreation enthusiasts in coming days.

Also today, Udall said he was glad to hear that a meeting scheduled for Friday to discuss the wilderness proposal has been moved to a new location and will allow for an open public discussion.

"This wilderness proposal came about because of the overwhelming support from southwestern Coloradans who want to preserve the most pristine peaks and valleys of the San Juan mountains.  We worked for many years to get this proposal right - to accommodate the water, mining and recreation uses of the land so that the wilderness designation is balanced and will strengthen the economy and conserve the beauty of the region for years to come," Udall said.  "I'm extremely happy to see the community come together to support this proposal, and I want to encourage an open and ongoing dialogue that ensures everyone can have a voice in a decision that impacts their community."  

Coloradans are encouraged to contact Udall's office to share their input or ask questions about the proposal.  Maps and a comment form are available HERE.  

In their own words, here is a selection of supportive statements Udall has received so far (the original letters can be accessed HERE):

San Miguel County Board of County Commissioners - Jan. 19, 2011:
"This proposal continues to enjoy nearly unanimous support in the region, due principally to the extensive outreach to stakeholders, and careful crafting to avoid conflicts. ... We stand ready to help in any way to see this legislation move forward."

San Juan County Board of County Commissioners - Jan. 26, 2011:
"On behalf of the residents of San Juan County, we wish to convey to you our continued support for your San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act. We sincerely thank you for your work on the legislation during the past session of Congress, and share in your disappointment that it wasn't enacted in 2010."

Ouray County Board of County Commissioners - Feb. 1, 2011:
Produced a resolution that said "we wish to see this model process and the San Juan Wilderness Expansion be successful" because "recreation and other uses of the public lands of Ouray County are a vital part of the local economy" and the "preservation of these public lands as designated Wilderness would better protect their scenic, environmental, economic, and recreational values in perpetuity from the adverse effects of future development."

Art Goodtimes, a San Miguel County Commissioner, wrote on Feb. 22, 2010, about the similar legislation introduced in the previous Congress:
"Throughout the long process of determining which lands deserve designation, both Rep. Salazar and Sen. Udall:
- Included discussions with local governments and incorporated their feedback into the bills;
- Actively sought out public input from a wide variety of stakeholder groups;
- Protected the balance between recreational users and environmental needs;
- Showed how government on the local, state and federal level is able to navigate opinions and desires to craft good legislation."

International Mountain Bicycling Association, which represents almost 8,000 members and 30 affiliated clubs in Colorado - Jan. 18, 2010:
"IMBA endorses this proposal to bring strong public land protection to southwestern Colorado and urges the committee to pass the bill.  Mountain bicyclists highly support protecting these cherished places - and all roadless lands - from development. We recognize the biological importance of preserving large expanses of undeveloped land. Mountain bicyclists value public lands for the same reasons as other quiet, low-impact users. We cherish the freedom, solitude, clean air, clean water and natural landscapes that bring us closer to nature."

Silverton Mountain School, a non-profit club of around 200 members that promotes recreation - Sept. 25, 2011:
"We support the Wilderness Bill that would permanently protect areas in the Northern San Juan Mountains in San Juan, San Miguel, and Ouray Counties. ... It will not change any current public use in the area and will be a positive addition for the economy in San Juan County by attracting more hikers to enjoy the Ice Lake trail, as well as protecting Ice Lake Basin."

"Senator Udall believes in the vital importance of preserving our remaining wild lands and I am thrilled to see this incredible area in Southwest Colorado move close to protection" said Hilary White, Executive Director of the Sheep Mountain Alliance, a grassroots organization dedicated to preserving the natural environment in Telluride and Southwest Colorado. "This bill is broadly supported regionally and we hope that it will be in Congress as well."

"San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act exemplifies all that National Wilderness Month symbolizes," said Jeff Widen, conservation designations associate director of the Wilderness Support Center at the Wilderness Society.  "In reintroducing this bill, Senator Udall has shown that land preservation and our outdoor recreation economy are driving forces in Colorado."

By: Tara Trujillo 202-224-4334
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