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.

Life’s Diversity
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.

Clean Water

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 streams.

Vermillion Basin petroglyphs.

(Mark Pearson)

The Economy

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.

Backcountry Recreation

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.

These wilderness 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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© 2006 Colorado Wilderness Network.