San Juan Mountains Wilderness Bill Introduced: Legislation has broad support across SW Colorado

Oct 22, 2009

DENVER - Leaders across Southwestern Colorado praised Congressman John Salazar (D-CO3) for his new San Juan Mountains Wilderness legislation. The bill, introduced earlier today, has the backing of San Miguel, Ouray, and San Juan Counties, along with numerous local stakeholders and would protect some of the San Juan Mountains most spectacular landscapes.

“Kudos to Representative Salazar for bringing forward a Colorado wilderness bill that has the support of local counties as well our state and national environmental communities,” said San Miguel County Commissioner Art Goodtimes.

“Congressman Salazar and his staff deserve a lot of credit for tireless efforts to ensure that everyone’s voice was heard on this legislation, said Pete McKay, San Juan County Commissioner. “The San Juan Mountains are vital to our economic future and our way-of-life and Congressman Salazar’s bill strikes the right balance, ensuring continued access and protecting our great mountains for generations to come.”

The legislation would expand the existing Mt. Sneffels and Lizard Head Wilderness Areas, establish the McKenna Peak Wilderness in western San Miguel County, 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 near Norwood.

From livestock managers to heli-skiing operators, from private landowners to motorized and non-motorized recreationists, Congressman Salazar and his staff sought input from everyone potentially affected by the legislation. In addition to the three Counties, support for the bill was received from the Towns of Telluride, Mountain Village, Ophir, Norwood, Ridgway, and Ouray, as well as the Ridgway Area and Telluride Chambers of Commerce. Ranchers, mountain bikers, conservation groups, and outfitters, as well as many local residents of the area endorsed the proposal.

“The San Juan bill shows what can happen when we all come together to ensure the future of this wonderful place we call home,” said Hilary White, Executive Director of the Sheep Mountain Alliance. “We have a responsibility to safeguard these special places for generations to come and Congressman Salazar’s bill does just that. Thousands of hours have gone into developing this legislation and I hope people will acknowledge the complete and thorough job that Congressman Salazar has done and support this effort.”

“Congress considers thousands of bills each year but few have the overwhelming local support that this legislation has,” said Jeff Widen, Associate Director of The Wilderness Society’s Wilderness Support Center. “This support is no surprise when you consider all the work done by Congressman Salazar and his staff to make sure this legislation works for local communities and stakeholders. This type of outreach and broad support makes it likely that the bill will move efficiently though Congress.”

“Conservationist, sportsman and outdoor enthusiasts throughout Southwest Colorado should be proud of the work Congressman Salazar has done here,” said Amber Kelley, Dolores River Campaign Coordinator in the San Juan Citizens Alliance’s Cortez office. “It ensures the future of critical watersheds throughout the region, protects both high and low elevation areas, and the McKenna Peak Area represents the first permanent protection of the Lower Dolores River Basin.”

This is a joint release by The Wilderness Society, Sheep Mountain Alliance, and the San Juan Citizens Alliance.