Frequently Asked Questions


Will Wilderness Designation Affect Recreational Options?

Wilderness provides for a balance of uses such as hunting, backpacking, trail running, horse packing, rock climbing, fly-fishing, rafting and kayaking. Recognizing this, the BLM's Wilderness Study Policy gives greater importance to identifying potential wilderness in close proximity to population centers. Although wilderness is closed to motorized and mechanized vehicles, such as off-road vehicles and mountain bikes, passage of the Citizens' Wilderness Proposal will affect just over 20% of the BLM lands in Colorado.  Most of the BLMs land will remain open to the full range of non-wilderness uses, including motorized use.

Will Wilderness Designation Affect Multiple Use?

The Multiple Use and Sustained Yield Act of 1960 notes: "The establishment and maintenance of areas
of wilderness are consistent with the purposes and provisions of this Act" (See MUSYA, Sect. 2).

In fact, wilderness is not a 'use' but a management designation supporting many uses and values. Uses for wilderness include wildlife habitat, scenic viewing, hiking, backpacking, boating, camping, hunting, and fishing.

Values which wilderness supports include clean air & water, genetic diversity, cultural resource protection, open space, and healthy, inexpensive, family-oriented recreation.

Will Wilderness Designation Affect the Economy?

Research suggests that wilderness has a positive influence on local economies, and that counties containing a higher percentage of wilderness have higher total income, employment and per capita income growth rates than counties without wilderness. Businesses move to counties with wilderness because of the quality of life it offers employees. Total employment in wilderness counties grew 65% faster than total employment in non-wilderness counties. In a survey, sponsored by the National Science Foundation of 2,670 people who live in counties with wilderness, 53% cited wilderness as an important reason why they located there, and 45% as to the reason why they do not move. People want clean air and open spaces. Wilderness draws recreationists and tourists who spend disposable income in local communities. In essence, wilderness amenities provide nearby communities with a comparative advantage over non-wilderness rural communities for helping to diversify the economy.

Will Wilderness Designation Affect Current Grazing in an Area?

Grazing is allowable in designated wilderness, with grazing continuing in the 'same manner and degree' as it did prior to designation. New developments and uses are not considered a 'grand-fathered' use, but current developments can be maintained by whatever methods were in use prior to Wilderness designation, including with the use of mechanized equipment and motorized vehicles.

Does Wilderness Impact Resource Industries Like Natural Gas Development?

Some areas in the Citizens' Wilderness Proposal include have natural gas potential, but the majority of public lands will remain open to gas development even with if protection of all the areas in the Citizens' Wilderness Proposal are protected. Within each wilderness area, Oonly valid mineral rights established prior to the designation of a the wilderness area, or prior to BLM's identification of an area as a Wilderness Study Area, can be developed.

In addition to natural gas, oil and coal development poses theThe largest perceived conflict with wilderness designation of areas within this the CWPproposal comes from potential mineral development. Most of these perceived conflicts arise from energy minerals, such as oil, natural gas, and coal. Hardrock minerals, such as gold and silver, pose few conflicts since most of the proposed wilderness areas are in sedimentary rock formations and are poor source rocks for these hardrock minerals

Does Wilderness Affect State Lands and Private Inholdings?

Where federal wilderness lands surround private or state lands, landowners retain the right to access their lands. Previously designated wilderness in Colorado has included a substantial number of nonfederal lands. For example, the state owns approximately 2,300 acres in Forest Service wilderness areas, with another 6,000 acres of private parcels scattered throughout. Because of dedicated efforts by Forest Service managers, private nonprofit land trusts, and land exchange proponents, the Forest Service has dramatically reduced its inventory of private inholdings within wilderness areas over the last several years, and in most cases timely acquisition has prevented incompatible development.

Will wilderness impact existing water rights?

Water rights in Colorado are administered under state law, in state water court, under the general principle of "first in time, first in right." Any water right reserved for the wilderness would come later in priority to existing rights. Many of these areas are 'headwaters' and so water rights are simply not an issue and in most other areas all available water is already adjudicated. Wilderness, through prohibiting new industrial developments and restricting motorized use, helps protect Colorado's water quality.

Does Wilderness Affect a Community's Ability to Manage and Respond to Emergency Situations?

Broad discretion is given to land agencies in responding to emergency or other critical situations.

The Wilderness Act states that, "[such] measures can be taken as may be necessary in the control of fire, insects, and diseases, subject to such conditions as the Secretary [of Interior] deems desirable." (Wilderness Act, Section 4(d)(1))

When necessary to protect life or property, emergency response, such as search and rescue, can employ motorized and mechanized vehicles and equipment. Prescribed burning, as a management tool, and fire fighting are also allowable allowed in wilderness areas.

Does Wilderness Impact the Management of Wildlife?

Wildlife is managed by state agencies, such as the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW), and these agencies are allowed reasonable access, including using motorized vehicles if necessary to fulfill management objectives. Through restricting public motorized access, wilderness helps protect secure habitat. Proposed wilderness in Colorado includes substantial portions of critical big game winter range, habitat for sensitive and endangered species, and wildlife migration routes.

Wilderness is supposed to be 'roadless,' but some places have existing vehicle routes -- if I can drive my jeep there, can it be 'roadless'?
Trails officially designated for off-highway vehicles (OHV) are not defined as "roads"; likewise, illegal routes created by irresponsible off-roading do not disqualify an area for "roadless" status. The term "road" -- when applied to the issue of wilderness -- is considered a specific legal term defined by Congress during the discussion and passage of the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA). It is clear that Congress intended that vehicle routes which do not meet this definition of road should not exclude an area from wilderness consideration, for protection as a Wilderness Study Area, or for designation as wilderness.

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