Dominguez wilderness bill advances

A plan to set aside nearly 276,000 acres of land in Mesa, Delta and Montrose counties as wilderness and conservation areas overwhelmingly passed the U.S. Senate during a Thursday morning vote.

The Senate voted 73-21 — with both Democratic Colorado Sens. Ken Salazar and Mark Udall on the prevailing side — to pass the sprawling public lands omnibus bill.

The measure, S.22, creates a 209,610-acre Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area and a 66,280-acre Dominguez Canyon Wilderness Area, in addition to numerous other public lands designations throughout the country.

“This bill is the product of extensive input the Colorado delegation has received from local
communities and stakeholders since 2006,” Salazar said after the vote.

“Today’s passage moves us one step closer to protecting some of the most spectacular desert landscapes on Colorado’s Western Slope, and ensuring that recreationists, hunters and anglers can enjoy these spectacular and wild lands for generations to come.”

Opponents of the bill, including Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., unsuccessfully railed against the bill as pork-barrel policymaking at its worst.

Coburn said he is not opposed to wilderness designations.

Instead, he said he vehemently opposes the “blatant, corrupt process of earmarking” when the country is trying to make due with declining revenues.

Eric Wortman, spokesman for Congressman John Salazar, D-Colo., said his boss plans to support the bill when it goes to the House of Representatives.


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