San Juans wilderness push gains momentum

PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON—Hiking in the San Juan Mountains near the base of 14,150 feet Mt Sneffels.Art to go with Dennis Webb’s story.Sent as SAN JUAN WILDERNESS 11-11.

Colorado’s U.S. senators have joined the push for wilderness and other protections for more than 61,000 acres in the San Juan Mountains.

Democrats Mark Udall and Michael Bennet have introduced the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act, a companion bill to legislation recently offered in the House by Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo.

The proposals would designate 33,383 acres as wilderness, including a new designation in the McKenna Peak area of western San Miguel County and, to the east and southeast near Ouray and Telluride, expansions to the Mount Sneffels and Lizard Head wilderness areas. It also would designate special management for 21,697 acres including Ice Lake Basin near Silverton and peaks near Ophir.

In addition, the measures would withdraw about 6,600 acres from mineral development in the Naturita Canyon area.

The wilderness proposal in general is said to have widespread support in Ouray, San Miguel and San Juan counties. It would allow continued grazing and access to maintain and repair water facilities. It also would make allowances for existing heli-skiing in the special management area and for the Hardrock 100 trail running race.

Udall said in a joint news release with Bennet, “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.”

Bennet said the measure “strikes the right balance between preserving Colorado’s natural landscape, protecting individual land rights and creating magnificent recreational lands.”


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