Udall may lead regional wilderness issue

The defeat of Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, a Republican, could have repercussions that would put Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, at the head of the regional wilderness movement.

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance hasn’t given up on Bennett being able to carry a wilderness bill through Congress, but conservationists are looking for backstops, one of whom could be Colorado’s Udall, said Terri Martin, western regional organizer for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

Martin spoke Wednesday at the Maverick Center at Mesa State College about the Red Rocks Wilderness proposal.

The Red Rocks proposal, which was introduced by U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., is in some competition with Bennett’s idea to bring county officials into the process.

Bennett has told alliance members he wants to work on the wilderness project, Martin said.

“There could be real interest in whatever Bennett puts together,” Martin said.

Bennett lost his party’s nomination during the Utah GOP’s convention this spring.

The implications for conservationists are significant, Martin said, because they now need someone in Congress to take up the cause.

Udall, who sits on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is a logical candidate because of his interest in public-lands issues and familiarity with the Utah landscapes at issue, Martin said.

“He knows this country better than anyone in Congress,” Martin said.

Udall “is focused on the San Juan Wilderness bill,” according to his office in Washington, D.C.

The wilderness alliance is looking to win congressional approval of more than just the lands outlined as deserving of designation by the Bureau of Land Management in the 1980s, Martin said.

Additional survey work over the ensuing years by hikers, campers and other outdoors people showed surrounding lands also qualify for wilderness designation, she said.

Issues about roads need to be worked out, especially “ghost routes” that aren’t really established roads, but they are on maps, presumably eliminating them from wilderness consideration, Martin said.

Western Colorado has much at stake in Utah wilderness because of the proximity of those lands, which Martin said, “are iconic around the world.”


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