Protecting Wilderness in Colorado's Rugged San Juan Mountains
Legislation to protect important portions of Colorado's San Juan Mountains is back before Congress. This week, Sens. Mark Udall and Michael F. Bennet, both Colorado Democrats, introduced the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act (S. 1635) to protect 61,220 acres of our public lands (map).
The bill would safeguard 21,620 acres as a special management area and designate 33,200 acres of new wilderness, expanding both the Lizard Head and Mount Sneffels wilderness areas and adding McKenna Peak to the National Wilderness Preservation System.
Geologically diverse mountain range
Located north of Durango in southwestern Colorado, these areas are nestled in one of world's most geologically diverse mountain ranges, the San Juan. Here, threatened species such as the Canada lynx, Gunnison sage grouse, and Colorado River cutthroat trout, whose status is under review, rely on intact and pristine habitat to survive.
“This is how wilderness can and should be done. Not only will this bill ensure generations of Coloradans will be able to enjoy its stunning beauty, but it will also help create jobs and boost the economy of the entire area.”
Protected lands benefit local economy
Local elected officials, outfitters, ranchers, conservationists, and business owners rely on these places for recreation and tourism dollars as well as clean water and solitude.
In announcing his bill's introduction, Udall praised the collaborative process that led to this legislation and said, “This is how wilderness can and should be done. Not only will this bill ensure generations of Coloradans will be able to enjoy its stunning beauty, but it will also help create jobs and boost the economy of the entire area.”
The San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act is yet another example of locals finding common ground to protect our public lands.
John Richter photos provided by the Sheep Mountain Alliance.