San Juan Wilderness Protections Take a Step Forward
DURANGO, Colo. - A bill that would create and expand wilderness areas in Southwestern Colorado is headed to the floor of the U.S. House. Rep. John Salazar's San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act cleared the House Natural Resources Committee Wednesday. It would add protections to over 60,000 acres, and designate 33,000 acres as wilderness, including additions to the Mount Sneffels and Lizard Head Wilderness areas.
Durango resident Mike Matz, director of the Pew Environment Group's Campaign for America's Wilderness, says the bill would be a benefit to Coloradans who enjoy a range of activities.
"People who ride horses, people who enjoy hiking and fishing in remote places; local businesses in the towns of Dolores, Norwood, and Telluride."
While he thinks the bill is a strong one and hopes it will be enacted, Matz says the House committee added one amendment he considers an attempt to slightly weaken wilderness legislation. The amendment from Utah Republican Rob Bishop would allow hunters to use non-motorized wheeled carts to pack out their game.
"I've hunted in the Lizard Head Wilderness, which this bill expands. It's difficult terrain, but people who need to use those carts generally don't hunt in those kinds of areas."
Many consider the San Juans among the most geologically diverse ranges in the world. The range is home to the threatened Canada lynx, Colorado River cutthroat trout and the Gunnison sage-grouse. Pew Environment Group plans to study the provision to determine if it could have any impact on the national standard for wilderness areas.