Colorado’s San Juan Mountains: Protections on the horizon

Liberty Bell in San Juan Mountains, Colorado.

Even with snow starting to fall in Colorado, wilderness enthusiasts are delighted to find that green is still the color of the season, as a new wilderness bill has been introduced by Congressman John Salazar.

Called The San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act of 2009 the legislation proposes to designate over 60,000 acres of public lands within San Miguel, Ouray, and San Juan Counties as wilderness or other protected areas. Backed by a diverse group of stakeholders, including county commissioners, ranchers, recreationists, and local citizen groups, this wilderness bill has overwhelming grassroots support.

These lands are also largely supported for protection by Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, as well as by dedicated citizens and conservation organizations like The Wilderness Society, Sheep Mountain Alliance, and the San Juan Citizens Alliance.

Visitors to the San Juan Mountains Area are treated to the awesome sight of snowy mountain ridges rising above dense groves of trees, as well as the excellent camping and backpacking opportunities that attract so many to this part of southwest Colorado. The region is well-known for outstanding wildlife viewing opportunities, big game hunting, and scenic vistas. The San Juan Mountains are also an important watershed, providing clean water to the surrounding communities. You can view detailed maps of the areas at the Congressman’s website.

Congressman Salazar’s effort to expand existing wilderness areas, and designate new areas, through legislation is a heartening recognition of the importance of our public lands to our health, standard of living, and economic development. In crafting this legislation, Rep. Salazar reached out to stakeholders of every kind, thus ensuring that the bill would have near unanimous support.

photo: Liberty Bell in San Juan Mountains, Colorado.