The right way to do a wilderness bill

The modest wilderness bill introduced by 3rd District Congressman John Salazar has several things in its favor.

First, it applies to areas in Salazar’s own congressional district. Unlike the over-reaching wilderness bill introduced by Denver Congresswoman Diana DeGette earlier this year, Salazar didn’t attempt to reach into other congressional districts to designate wilderness areas in them. Nor did he include highly controversial areas with few acres of real wilderness — such as the Roan Plateau — in his bill.

Even more importantly, Salazar worked hard to win support from elected officials in the counties and municipalities that would be most affected by his wilderness proposal. In addition to local government representatives in San Miguel, San Juan and Ouray counties, people and groups —ranging from ranchers to recreationists to business groups — have supported the bill to designate 61,000 acres of wilderness in the southwest part of the state.

Additionally, Salazar worked to protect state water rights from being supersceded by federal rights through his wilderness proposal. His bill also protects existing uses such as grazing, maintenance of water facilities, and some long-established recreational activities will be allowed to continue.

If Salazar’s bill becomes law, new lands around Mount Sneffels and Mount Wilson will be protected as wildereness, along with lands lnear Dolores, Silverton, Ophir and Naturita.

We applaud Salazar for taking the right approach to wilderness designation, and we hope his legislation wins swift approval in Congress.


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