Colorado could get some big new swaths of wilderness under a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette. The Colorado Wilderness Act of 2015 would protect 32 separate areas consisting of more than 715,000 acres. It will preserve a wide range of wilderness quality public land including high mountain peaks and critical lower elevation red rock canyons.
“As I’ve traveled the state over the years, meeting with stakeholders and listening to Coloradoans, I’ve heard people across the state emphasize the importance of wilderness and their reasons are as diverse as the individuals calling for their protection, ranging from the support it brings to local businesses and our economy to habitat protection and the Colorado lifestyle," DeGette said.
“Businesses like mine exist because of the quality of the water, habitat and species that we are lucky enough to enjoy here in Colorado,” said Johnny Le Coq, CEO/Founder of Fishpond, Inc., a Colorado owned and operated outdoor recreation business and certified B Corp. “They, along with our quality of life and the outdoor recreation opportunities provided, are what draw people to the state, driving our economy and businesses like mine. We must protect them.”
The legislation is a citizen based proposal with support from county commissions, business and residents across Colorado. Many of the areas are Wilderness Study Areas which means that they are already managed as wilderness and their management won’t change but it will bring certainty for stakeholders.
"Congresswoman DeGette understands the need for balanced use of our public lands, yet is visionary in recognizing that there are some special and unique lands that should be set aside and preserved in perpetuity as wilderness,” said George Newman, Pitkin County Commissioner. “These are such lands."
Congresswoman DeGette first introduced the bill in 1999, and the proposal was originally developed by concerned citizens around the state who spent many more years surveying potential public lands and meeting with the public and stakeholders to develop a statewide proposal. After painstakingly, incorporating all the data and feedback they asked Rep. DeGette to help them protect these last remaining critical areas.