New Wilderness (Central Mountains Proposal)

WW is rallying around Sen. Udall’s Central Mountains proposal
Anderson Lake

The Ruby Lakes area, south of Independence Pass, is part of Sen. Udall’s Central Mountains proposal. Photo courtesy of John Ogburn.

The Wilderness Workshop, in partnership with the Wilderness Society and Conservation Colorado, is seeking Congressional legislation that would permanently protect hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands across our region.

Our citizens’ wilderness 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 citizen-proposed areas in Pitkin County. It would 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.

Our earlier and larger (340,000-acre) vision for new wilderness remains, and we will continue 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 citizens’ wilderness proposal has its own website, www.whiteriverwild.org – please visit it for detailed descriptions, maps and photos of all the proposed wilderness additions.