San Juan Mountains Bill Passes House Committee

Jun 16, 2010

Proposal Praised for Broad Support and Inclusive Process

Washington, DCThe Sheep Mountain Alliance, The Wilderness Society and the San Juan Citizens Alliance today praised the passage of the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act of 2009 through the Natural Resources Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Act will create new wilderness areas in San Juan Mountains. The legislation was introduced by Rep. John Salazar, with companion legislation introduced in the Senate by Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet.

The legislation has broad support from ranchers and land owners, water interests, recreation enthusiasts, local and federal government officials, and conservationists. In addition to the three local counties (Ouray, San Miguel and San Juan), support for the bill was received from the Towns of Telluride, Mountain Village, Ophir, Norwood, Ridgway, and Ouray, as well as the Ridgway Chamber of Commerce and the Telluride Tourism Bureau.

"This legislation serves as a model for how wilderness bills should be put together, with input from all stakeholders,” said San Miguel County Commissioner Art Goodtimes. “Hats off to Congressman Salazar for crafting this bill in such a cooperative manner. The residents of San Miguel County - who've put so much effort into protecting the region's high country - are delighted that the spectacular viewshed right above Telluride will be protected in wilderness.”

The bill has been praised for protecting some of the region’s most spectacular places and for addressing the feedback and gaining widespread support of stakeholders from throughout the region.

“The San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act is the culmination of three years of hard work and collaboration by folks throughout southwest Colorado,” said Jeff Widen, Associate Director for Conservation Designations at The Wilderness Society who attended today’s markup. “Local stakeholders of all kinds have come together to protect this treasured area that is enjoyed by all Americans.”

The legislation would expand the existing Mt. Sneffels and Lizard Head Wilderness areas, establish the McKenna Peak Wilderness, create the Sheep Mountain Special Management Area along the alpine ridge between San Miguel and San Juan counties, and prohibit oil and gas development in Naturita Canyon.

The Sheep Mountain Alliance, The Wilderness Society and the San Juan Citizens Alliance look forward to working with local partners to see the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act enacted into law this Congress.