Legislation introduced by Senator Bennet focuses on lands in Southwestern Colorado

Apr 19, 2018

McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area would receive added protections under the San Juan Wilderness Act. 

Photo by Mason Cummings, The Wilderness Society
Years of collaboration and local input have led to Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) introducing the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act to provide better management and protections for lands in San Miguel, Ouray and San Juan counties in southwestern Colorado.

The legislation would secure protections for nearly 60,000 acres in the heart of the San Juan Mountains. Half of the acreage would expand or create wilderness for the Mt. Sneffels Range, Lizard Head area and McKenna Peak. The other half would ensure management protections for areas including Ice Lakes Basin, Vermillion Peak and Naturita Canyon.

The bill was carefully crafted to avoid conflicts with private property, water rights, mountain biking, snowmobiling, commercial heli-skiing, and other established uses. Supported by all three counties where the lands are and the municipalities of Telluride, Mountain Village, Ouray, Ridgway and Silverton; local ranchers and outfitters, and over 120 local businesses. It is truly a community-based proposal.

A bill summary and map released by Senator Bennet’s office provide more detail on the legislation:

The following statement is from Jeff Widen, Senior Regional Conservation Representative at The Wilderness Society:

“Protecting America’s last unspoiled wildlands is important to the future of our state. The San Juan Wilderness Act works to strike a balance between conservation, recreation, and smarter energy development in the future. The impacts from climate change, wildfire, drought and population growth put added pressure on our region highlighting an urgent need for better protections and management.  These lands are some of Colorado’s most spectacular places and with Senator Bennet’s continued leadership we can ensure future generations experience these places as we do now.”  


The following statements are from local supporters in response to today’s bill introduction:

“Senator Bennet’s bill is a good example of how local communities, county officials, and our federally elected officials can work together to find common-sense solutions for the future of public lands in our region. San Juan County is nestled in the heart of the San Juan mountains and our future is dependent on smart legislation like Bennet’s San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act”.  --- Scott Fetchenhier, San Juan County Commissioner

“As someone who’s livelihood comes directly from the land, it’s vital that our local public lands should be preserved for the future of our water, clean air, traditional uses, and the ability to continue the quality of life that we have now.” --- Liza Clark, Ouray County rancher

"The San Juan Mountains Wilderness Bill has been a decade in the making. Its carefully considered borders were drawn through extensive engagement and collaboration with stakeholders ranging from miners to mountain bikers, and as a result of that hard work, it is broadly supported by the people of our region. Sheep Mountain Alliance thanks Senator Bennet for introducing this important bill.  ---Lexi Tuddenham, Executive Director of Sheep Mountain Alliance

“The legislation delivers long-anticipated permanent protection for some of our most cherished San Juan Mountains treasures, such as Ice Lake Basin above Silverton. It also brings the first permanent wilderness status to a desert landscape in southwest Colorado, the rugged badlands of McKenna Peak in the Dolores River’s watershed Disappointment Valley. With this legislation, we can be sure these iconic regional landscapes are safeguarded from future hardrock mining or oil and gas development,” --- Mark Pearson, Executive Director, San Juan Citizens Alliance

“The Wilderness areas of the San Juans are our backyard…indeed that is where we go to play and keep our sanity, and every inch needs to have the best protection possible so that our children, grandchildren and other future generations will have the same opportunity to enjoy it in the same condition that it is in right now.“ --- Jim Stephenson, Ridgway-Ouray Community Council.






Jeff Widen