DeGette unveils new Colorado wilderness protection plan
DENVER, CO – U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) unveiled new legislation today to designate more than 740,000 acres in 33 areas of Colorado as federally-protected wilderness.
“Colorado’s public lands are what set us apart from the rest of the country,” DeGette said at a news conference Monday to announce the plan. “They are the reason why so many of us are so proud to call Colorado home, and they are the reason why so many people from across the country flock here to visit each year.”
The legislation – known as the Colorado Wilderness Act, which DeGette plans to introduce in Congress Tuesday – would officially designate 33 new areas across the state as federally-protected wilderness, giving those areas – which have been managed as wilderness for decades – the highest level of permanent protection available and ensuring they remain untouched for years to come.
“This bill was designed to protect some our state’s most unique areas,” DeGette said, “from the desert slopes of the Bookcliffs, to the highest peaks of the San Juan Mountains.”
If approved, DeGette’s legislation would be the largest land-protection package for Colorado in the past 25 years – and would increase the total amount of protected wilderness in the state by more than 20%.
DeGette said Monday that permanently protecting more of Colorado’s public lands is not only important for Colorado’s residents to continue to enjoy these unique spaces, it’s also vital to the state’s overall economy.
According to the Colorado Office of Economic Development, Colorado’s outdoor recreation industry generates $28 billion in consumer spending annually, supports 229,000 jobs and pays $9.7 billion in salaries and wages to Colorado workers.
While Colorado currently has more than 3,500,000 acres of federally-protected wilderness, most of that land is at higher elevations – such as the alpine landscapes for which Colorado is so famous.
Most of the areas that DeGette’s legislation seeks to protect are mid-elevation ecosystems that are not only used for outdoor recreational activities, but also serve as critical habitats for a variety of plants and wildlife.
Protecting Colorado’s public lands has been one of DeGette’s top legislative priorities since she was first elected to Congress. Despite several previous attempts to get similar legislation approved by Congress, the Colorado Democrat announced Monday that this year was different.
“For more than 20 years, I have been working to protect Colorado’s wilderness,” DeGette said. “And, I am excited to announce that this may finally be the year that we get this done.”
DeGette explained that, unlike some of her most recent attempts to get similar legislation approved by Congress, she has once again been appointed to serve as a member of the House Natural Resources Committee – the committee responsible for first reviewing the legislation she plans to introduce tomorrow.
As such, DeGette said she recently received assurances from key Congressional leaders that the legislation she unveiled today, once introduced, will – for the first time – get the hearing it needs to move.
“I have had several discussions with committee members and leaders about this bill,” DeGette said, “and I have been assured that once it’s introduced tomorrow, this bill will get the hearing it needs to advance in the committee in the coming weeks.”
Following is a copy of the bill to be introduced Tuesday, a map showing the 33 areas to be designated, a copy of the press packet distributed at today’s press conference, and photos from the event:
A copy of the bill DeGette plans to introduce Tuesday is available here.
A map showing the areas that would be protected under DeGette’s bill is available here.
A copy of the press packet distributed at today’s event, with more information, is available here.