DeGette reintroduces plan to protect 660,000 acres of Colorado wilderness

Feb 4, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) reintroduced legislation today to permanently protect nearly 660,000 acres of wilderness in Colorado.

The legislation – which was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives twice last year – is the largest Colorado wilderness protection bill to make it through the chamber in more than a decade. While more than two-thirds of the areas included in the bill are already being managed as wilderness areas, the legislation would provide them the permanent protection they deserve.

“Colorado’s majestic landscapes and vast wilderness areas are what make our state so special, and it’s why millions of outdoor adventurers come here each year to visit,” DeGette said. “It’s up to us, like those before us, to protect these precious lands for future generations to enjoy just as we’ve been able to do.” 

If approved, DeGette’s legislation – known as the Colorado Wilderness Act – would provide three dozen low to mid-elevation areas across the state with the highest level of permanent protection available.

While the Republican-controlled Senate refused to bring the bill up for a vote last year, DeGette says with Democrats now in control of both the Senate and White House she believes the legislation – cosponsored by U.S. Reps. Jason Crow (D-CO), Joe Neguse (D-CO) and Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) – has a real chance of passing both chambers and becoming law this year.  

“Our fight to protect more of Colorado’s wilderness gained tremendous momentum last year,” DeGette said, “and we are confident that we are finally in a position to get this bill approved and signed into law.”  

The 36 areas to be protected under the bill – including Handies Peak, Dolores River Canyon and Little Bookcliffs – serve as critical habitats for a variety of plants and wildlife. They are also often used by adventurers for a wide-range of outdoor activities, such as hiking, rafting, kayaking, hunting, fishing and mountain climbing.

While many of the areas are already being treated as wilderness, proponents of the plan say that providing them permanent protection will help to further boost the nearby local economies, as they become frequent hosts to outdoor adventurers from all over the country. 

According to Colorado’s Office of Economic Development, the state’s outdoor recreation industry generates $37 billion in consumer spending annually throughout the state and directly supports more than 511,000 jobs. A recent survey found that 92% of Colorado residents participate in some form of outdoor recreation each year. 

A copy of the bill is available here

A copy of the media packet with more information on the areas to be protected is available here.

A map showing the areas to be designated under the bill is available here.