Today the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources passed Congressman Salazar's San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act. The act was requested by the County Commissions of San Miguel, Ouray and San Juan Counties. It has the official support of the municipalities of Telluride, Mountain Village, Ridgway, Ouray, Ophir, and Norwood. This legislation includes 61,682 acres of public land on portions of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest, the San Juan National Forest and the San Juan Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Resource Area. The bill will provide permanent protection for some of Colorado's most renowned views and mountains including the slopes of Mt. Sneffels and Wilson Peak; two of the state's most famous "fourteeners"-peaks above fourteen thousand feet. The legislation will protect agricultural use of the land including all established grazing and water rights. The bill will also protect much of the iconic viewshed above the town of Telluride as seen from Telluride ski area. The San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act now moves toward a vote by the full House of Representatives.
Congressman Salazar offered the following comment upon the bill's committee passage: "Today's passage of the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act is a major step in the process and a victory for the communities of Southwest Colorado. This bill came from the ground up, from my constituents and local government representatives who came together to work out a bill with me that enjoys strong support on the ground. I thank all those who helped make it a reality with the long hard work needed to craft this legislation.
"I am proud to move this bill forward on behalf of the communities I represent. It will provide permanent protection for the crystal clear waters and soaring peaks of the San Juan Mountains while protecting agricultural use of the land including all established grazing and water rights. The stunning beauty of this region provides the economic driver for these communities and the permanent protection of these areas will help solidify the recreation and tourism based economies upon which these communities depend. I look forward to securing this bill's passage by the full House of Representatives."
Provisions of the bill:
Under this proposed legislation the following areas will receive Wilderness Area designations:
3,170 acres will be added to the existing Lizard Head Wilderness Area by the Blackface, Sunshine and Wilson additions.
8,375 acres will be added to the existing Mt. Sneffels Wilderness Area by the Liberty Bell and Last Dollar additions.
13,231 acres will be added to the existing Mt. Sneffels Wilderness Area by the Whitehouse addition.
8,614 acres of the McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area will be designated as Wilderness. In addition, two other designations will be created by the proposed legislation.
21,697 acres in San Juan and San Miguel County including Ice Lakes basin and the high alpine peaks near Ophir will be designated as the Sheep Mountain Special Management Area. Existing uses including heliisking will be allowed to continue indefinitely, but no new roads or other development will be permitted.
6,595 acres will be withdrawn from eligibility for mineral leasing in Naturita Canyon. No other uses in the canyon will be impacted.