Background Summary

The Need For Protection
From the spine of the Continental Divide to the canyon country of the Western Slope, Colorado's wilderness offers rugged scenery and crucial wildlife habitat. The existing 3,390,635 acres of designated wilderness, which comprises approximately 5% of Colorado's total land, are primarily high peaks within our National Forests. Despite the existence of these protected areas, five million acreas of wilderness quality lands are still unprotected, including many lower-elevation, wildlife-rich canyon lands managed by the BLM. Protecting key ecosystems in the lower elevation range (between 4,000 and 9,000 feet) will greatly expand the life zones, wildlife habitat, recreation seasons, and plant communities protected in Colorado.

Rafters enjoying the Dolores River.

(John Fielder)

Colorado's Canyon Country Wilderness Proposal
Colorado's Canyon Country Wilderness Proposal (CCCWP) describes the wilderness values of 62 distinctive places across Colorado that provide essential habitat for diverse animal and plant species as well as outstanding backcountry recreation opportunities. These invaluable lands are mostly administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Several parcels administered by the U.S. Forest Service have been included where necessary to encompass more complete watersheds and ecosystems. The CCCWP calls for the permanent protection of these lands as wilderness.

Included among these 1.65 million acres are many of the state's most beautiful and most ecologically diverse regions, ranging from Colorado’s lowest elevations, including Dolores River Canyon in far western Colorado, to Colorado’s highest elevations, including Handies Peak, a 14,000-foot summit in the San Juan Mountains. The diversity of these landscapes and the importance of providing protection for Colorado's largely unprotected canyon lands has motivated over 60 conservation and recreation organizations to join dozens of local governments, businesses, and religious organizations in endorsing the protection of these wildlands.

Environmental and citizen groups have spent countless hours "ground truthing" areas in the bill to bolster the argument that these lower elevation wildlands in Colorado merit wilderness designation.

The CCCWP recommendations are a culmination of more than 30 years of research conducted by citizens across the state, including studies conducted before the passage of The Wilderness Act in 1964. In 1976, in enacting the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, Congress directed BLM to evaluate its lands for wilderness. Wilderness designation of the lands contained in this citizens' proposal will complete the Congressional goal established then, namely, the extension of the National Wilderness Preservation System to lands administered by the BLM.

Since that time, many spectacular roadless areas have felt the bite of the drill bit and the scrape and roar of the bulldozer. The time for Congressional action to protect the remaining segments of Colorado's magnificent BLM wildlands is now.

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© 2006 Colorado Wilderness Network.