New Wilderness (Central Mountains Proposal)
WW and the Hidden Gems Campaign are rallying around Sen. Udall’s Central Mountains proposal
The Wilderness Workshop, in partnership with the Colorado Mountain Club, the Wilderness Society and the Colorado Environmental Coalition, is seeking Congressional legislation that would permanently protect hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands across our region.
Our Hidden Gems proposal, launched in 2007, has been refined through extensive outreach to every conceivable stakeholder group, to the point that it has become the basis for a bill in the House and a proposed bill in the Senate. We’re now advocating for both these legislative vehicles, while at the same time making the case that they should include even more areas.
Rep. Jared Polis, whose district stretches from Boulder to Vail, introduced his Eagle and Summit County Wilderness Preservation Act in April 2011, which would protect 162,000 acres in those two counties under wilderness or near-wilderness designations. In February 2012, Sen. Mark Udall unveiled his Central Mountains Outdoor Heritage proposal, which includes all the same areas and acreages as Polis’s bill, plus all Hidden Gems proposal areas in Pitkin County. It would establish create several brand-new, standalone wilderness areas and enlarge the boundaries of all the existing wilderness areas in our region – all together, 32 separate parcels totaling 235,000 acres. In July 2012, Sen. Michael Bennet announced his intention to work on a separate bill for lands in Gunnison County through a process he’s calling the Gunnison Public Lands Initiative.
The larger (340,000-acre) Hidden Gems vision remains, and the Hidden Gems Campaign continues to advocate for wilderness designation for the additional vision areas, working with user groups to remove any outstanding objections to their being included in future legislation.
The White River National Forest comprises a landscape of national importance: it’s the nation’s most recreated national forest; it encompasses the headwaters of the Colorado River; and it occupies a vital position in what is known to conservation biologists as the “spine of the continent,” a key continent-scale migration corridor. Sadly, its western portion is currently at risk of becoming a national sacrifice zone for natural-gas and oil-shale development. Preserving large portions of this landscape as designated wilderness will secure a priceless legacy for all Americans.
The Hidden Gems Campaign has its own website, www.whiteriverwild.org – please visit it for detailed descriptions, maps and photos of all the proposed wilderness additions.