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Summer CO Getaway Spots Up for Protection

July 28, 2009

DURANGO, Colo. - As the season blazes on, some of Colorado's favorite summer getaway areas have taken a step towards staying that way. Representative John Salazar recently unveiled a draft of a bill he plans to introduce in Congress as soon as September that would protect about 63,000 acres in the southwestern part of the state as wilderness.

Mike Matz, executive director of the Campaign for America's Wilderness in Durango, says the areas covered by the bill are beloved by many Coloradans for many reasons.

"They include elk habitat for elk hunting, and places for fishing or rafting along the Dolores."

Matz says the bill protects a broad swath of lands, and will help to connect some important ecosystems to ensure their survival for future generations.

"It includes pine forests in the mountains, all the way down to sagebrush deserts in some of these places, so there's a great variety of landscapes."

Matz says there may not be any threats on the immediate horizon, but it still matters to commit to protecting these areas.

"It's important to protect these roadless lands from any kind of possible threat to development, whether from logging, road-building, whatever."

Matz says a broad coalition of politicians, ranchers, landowners and conservationists support the bill. No substantive opposition has yet been heard or reported. The bill would expand the Lizard Head and Mt. Sneffels wilderness areas, designate the McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area as a wilderness, create the roadless Sheep Mountain Special Management Area, and withdraw part of Naturita Canyon from eligibility for mineral leasing.

Salazar's office is taking public comments on the bill until mid-August.

A draft of the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act and related maps are available online at
www.house.gov

Eric Mack, Public News Service - CO