Why CCCWP Areas Deserve Protection
Much of the proposed
wilderness acreage is in the arid lands of western Colorado.
Unfortunately, Colorado has already lost much of its arid
wilderness in the last 40 years during the course of recurring
boom times. The 1950s’ uranium boom led to indiscriminate road
building in many thousands of acres of spectacular wilderness
along the Utah border. Various oil, natural gas, and oil shale
booms have resulted in the loss of all significant roadless
areas in the Piceance Basin. Enactment of Colorado's Canyon Country Wilderness Proposal may be our only opportunity to safely
sequester a few priceless gems of Colorado’s natural heritage
from the potential effects of future booms.
Endangered and threatened species such as the peregrine falcon
and the bald eagle find nesting areas
in the canyons of western Colorado. The rich habitat along many
perennial streams and rivers provide
excellent feeding grounds for these raptors. Many imperiled
species, such as the canyon tree frog, kit
fox, kachina daisy, sage grouse, and the pikeminnow also depend
on these areas for their survival. Big
game such as elk and deer, as well as predators like black bear
and mountain lion, find these mid-elevation
lands necessary for winter range and feeding.
In addition, BLM wilderness areas comprise many key links in these landscape
connections between our peaks and valleys, as well as along the
many river valleys to neighboring states and ecoregions. The blossoming
science of conservation biology indicates that large roadless
areas connected by landscape corridors offer the only sure
method for preserving the natural biological diversity of Earth.
Safeguarding Colorado's Canyon Country Wilderness Proposal areas also augments the state's numerous Research
Natural Areas, sites proposed for protection because of their
scientific value for rare plant species and rare creatures.
Designation of the
proposed BLM wilderness areas offers the only opportunity to
preserve significant downstream segments of Colorado’s mighty
rivers. The birthplaces of these rivers, high amidst the craggy peaks of
the Rocky Mountains, are largely preserved within the designated
wilderness of the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park
Service, but the lower segments where the rivers reach their
full potential are unrepresented in the existing wilderness
system; each of
these is ecologically significant in its own right, and each
provides untold thousands of recreation days every year for
boating, fishing, and hiking. Preserving BLM wilderness will
help preserve the purity of municipal water sources for small
towns, and helps maintains the quality of our rivers and
drinking water by protecting watersheds from damaging activities
like oil and gas drilling and hardrock mining, which bulldozes
vegetation, erodes topsoil, and leaches heavy metals into
Vermillion Basin petroglyphs.
Wilderness pays large and growing economic dividends to local
communities. Protected public lands increase the property values
of surrounding private lands and contribute to a high quality of
life that attracts new businesses and residents. Research
confirms 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. Total
employment in wilderness counties grew 65% faster than total
employment in non-wilderness counties, in part because
businesses move to counties with wilderness because of the
quality of life it offers employees. 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.
Wilderness provides a diverse range of non-motorized recreation
for anglers, hunters, hikers, horsepackers, snowshoers,
backpackers, kayakers, rock climbers, canoeists, birdwatchers,
photographers, cross-country skiers, and other visitors.
areas also include: critical winter range for our big game herds
when they descend from the protected high country; slickrock canyons that are
never snowbound, providing accessibility to recreationists
year-round; and protection for the
intermittent streams and springs upon which our desert bighorns
and other wildlife depend.
Cultural and Scientific Resources
Wilderness designation protects important sites, such as the
ancient Anasazi ruins of Colorado’s Cross
Canyon and the fossil beds in South Shale Ridge, from
development and vandalism.
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