Udall, Bennet Introduce Bill to Create San Juan Mountains Wilderness
Bill Preserves Over 61,000 Acres in San Juan, Ouray, and San Miguel Counties; Respects Private Property Rights and Recreation Access
Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet announced that they have introduced the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act of 2009 in the Senate. It is a companion bill to one introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman John Salazar (H.R. 3914).
The San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act would designate 33,383 acres in southwestern Colorado as wilderness - much of it expanding existing wilderness areas - and 21,697 acres as a special management area. The bill would also withdraw about 6,596 acres from mineral entry (exploration and development) in the Naturita Canyon area. Altogether, more than 61,000 acres would be preserved in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest, the San Juan National Forest, and the San Juan Bureau of Land Management Resource Area in San Juan, Ouray and San Miguel counties. The bill is the result of extensive collaboration between residents, stakeholders and local government officials, and is written to provide protection for the land while respecting the need to access the area for water, grazing and recreation.
"The San Juan Mountains are blessed with stunning beauty. From the rugged backcountry to the rock- and ice-topped fourteeners, it is truly one of our state's most special places," Senator Udall said. "This bill will protect this treasured land for future generations, while respecting private property rights and allowing recreation and other uses of the land to continue. I want to recognize and thank Congressman Salazar and the many stakeholders and Coloradans who worked together to craft this proposal. I look forward to working with my colleagues to get it passed."
"Protecting the San Juan Mountains as a unique part of Colorado's natural heritage will safeguard its beauty and history - an important legacy to Colorado's future generations," Senator Bennet said. "This proposal - the product of years of hard work by Colorado residents and local officials - strikes the right balance between preserving Colorado's natural landscape, protecting individual land rights and creating magnificent recreational lands. I look forward to working with Congressman Salazar and Senator Udall to make the San Juan Wilderness a reality."
Key provisions of the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act include:
• Expansion of existing wilderness around Mt. Sneffels and Lizard Head, two areas with 14,000-foot peaks.
• Establishment of new wilderness in the McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area. McKenna Peak towers over sandstone cliffs rising 2,000 feet above the plain, adding a unique landform to the national wilderness preservation system. The area borders North Mountain, which contains one of the largest deer and elk herds in the state. It is also home to a wild horse herd, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, mountain lions, bear and bobcats.
• Establishment of the Sheep Mountain Special Management Area to protect the area's wilderness character while still allowing helicopter skiing.
• Withdrawal of land from mineral development in the Naturita Canyon area.
• Guaranteed access to existing water facilities and needs, while precluding federal assistance for the expansion of or construction of a new water facility.
• Continued access to the area for the Hardrock 100, a pre-existing running event.
• Continued access for grazing in all areas where allowed by current law.