The Pew Campaign for America's Wilderness applauded Rep. Jared Polis’s (D-CO) announced intention to re-introduce legislation to protect nearly 166,000 acres of pristine wild lands, including 81,790 acres of wilderness, on the White River National Forest and surrounding Bureau of Land Management areas in the Central Colorado Rockies.
The Eagle and Summit County Wilderness Preservation Act, to be introduced by Rep. Polis, is identical to legislation proposed last year. It is the result of a multi-year effort by a coalition of local, state and national conservation groups to secure wilderness designation for these outstanding wild lands.
Working as the Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign, the coalition reached out to a wide variety of stakeholders, including public agencies, industry representatives, private landowners, elected officials, ranchers and recreation groups, and—based on their feedback—developed a proposal that it presented to the Colorado congressional delegation last spring. At that time, Congressman Polis vetted this approach by hosting three public meetings within his district to solicit input and crafted the legislation based on these discussions.
“Protecting portions of the Central Rockies as wilderness makes economic sense,” said Marcia Argust with the Pew Campaign for America’s Wilderness. “Rep. Polis recognizes the value these federal lands have for the tourism and outdoor recreation industry, and has acted to permanently safeguard the natural resources that sustain neighboring communities.”
Outreach and education earned endorsements from a diverse group of stakeholders, including Summit County firefighters and water district managers, outfitters, fly fishing shops, rafting and guiding companies and a variety of other businesses and nonprofit organizations.
“From the start, Rep. Polis made clear his intention to listen to all interested parties. The resulting bill is a balanced, viable effort to address everyone’s needs,” Argust said.
The wilderness areas designated by the bill—including Bull Gulch, Spraddle Creek and Hoosier Ridge—will preserve mid-elevation lands in Colorado and increase the area where wildlife can range. Federally designated wilderness areas ensure landscapes are managed at the highest standards for natural and wild public lands, protecting clean drinking water, providing world-class hunting, fishing and backcountry opportunities and safeguarding a natural American legacy.