The Mesa County commissioners don't like a bill in Congress to create new federal wilderness areas or the state's efforts to increase the use of some electric vehicles.

On Monday, the commissioners approved sending a letter to U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette asking her to remove any land in Mesa County from her Colorado Wilderness Act of 2019, which she introduced into Congress last month.

The Denver Democrat has introduced similar legislation in Congress for years calling for including more than 740,000 acres of wilderness — 140,000 of which are in Mesa County — for possible inclusion as official federal wilderness areas.

Commissioner Scott McInnis, a former congressmen representing Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, said DeGette's bill is something of a sham, saying that only Congress can designate land wilderness, and her bill is a way to sidestep that requirement.

McInnis said there's nothing wrong with setting aside land that is inaccessible and rarely seen by humans as wilderness, but said efforts like DeGette's are intended to curry political favor.

"Wilderness areas have now become a ... tool directed more by political direction than by the management reality of that particular land," McInnis said. "Wilderness areas have become kind of a popular thing to put on your (political) resume. The consequences of wilderness areas, you can't do anything on a wilderness area. Most people think a wilderness area is an outdoor recreation area. It's not. That land is intended to make sure that humans don't go on to it."

Currently, about 72 percent of the total acreage of Mesa County is already federally controlled land, much of which is controlled by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. As a result, the commissioners said there's no need to add more restrictions on those lands, as DeGette's bill would do.

DeGette's bill, which is designed to protect more Colorado land from oil and gas development, would put areas in Bangs Canyon south of Grand Junction and South Shale Ridge on top of the Bookcliffs north of town into wilderness areas. Both areas are controlled by the BLM.

The commissioners passed a resolution opposing a similar DeGette bill back in 2015, a measure that went nowhere. Last month, the Garfield County Commission sent a similar letter to DeGette opposing this year's bill.

The commissioners also approved a resolution Monday opposing an effort by the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission to approve California-style zero emission vehicle rules. Last year, former Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an executive order mandating the commission to consider new rules for low-emissions vehicles, but because of "extensive" public comments on zero emissions, the commission is looking into that, too.

The commission is to discuss both efforts at its next meeting in August.

Recommended for you