Colorado Senators propose land-protection bills |

Colorado Senators propose land-protection bills

BOB BERWYNsummit daily newsSummit County, CO Colorado


Colorados U.S. senators moved to protect cultural and environmental resources in the state last week, introducing a series of bills that would designate new wilderness in Rocky Mountain National Park and in the Dominguez Canyon area on the Uncompahgre Plateau.Closer to Summit County, one of the measures, the South Park National Heritage Act, would protect 19 working ranches along 30 miles of stream corridor and 17,000 acres of wetlands and agricultural lands in the headwaters of the South Platte River.Another measure, dubbed the Front Range Mountain Backdrop Act, would protect open spaces and natural resources between burgeoning cities and suburbs.I have pushed for these important bills since my first days in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Ken Salazar said in a press release. They all reflect the input and support of local communities and will help protect the land and water that is fundamental to our way of life. I am hopeful we will have an opportunity to pass them in the coming days.Salazar, a Democrat from the San Luis Valley, has been tabbed to be President-elect Barack Obamas Interior secretary and likely will not shepherd the legislation through Congress.According to Salazar and fellow Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, the bills are essential to ensuring that Colorado communities have reliable access to clean water, protecting open space along the Front Range, and preserving the natural heritage and beauty of Colorado for the enjoyment of generations to come.Were real pleased about it, said Steve Smith, a conservation expert with The Wilderness Society. Several of the bills came close to passing during the previous Congress, winning passage through the U.S. House of Representatives and several key Senate committees.Smith said both wilderness bills have widespread local support. The Dominguez Canyon bill is unique because it creates a new wilderness for Bureau of Land Management land within a conservation area that also protects traditional agricultural uses as well as ancient examples of rock art.Smith said its one of the few lower-elevation wilderness areas in the state, helping to protect different wildlife thats not found in the traditional, high-elevation rock and ice wilderness areas.In general, Smith said the incoming Obama administration and the Democratic majorities in both houses are more likely to take a balanced approach to public land management, recognizing both the importance of extracting valuable resources and the need to set aside areas with high environmental and social values.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at

U.S. Sens. Ken Salazar and Mark Udall have introduced the following legislation intended to preserve some of Colorados scenic landscapes and natural resources: The Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area ActThe bill would designate approximately 210,000 acres of federally-owned land on the Uncompahgre plateau as the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area, of which approximately 65,000 acres would be designated as the Dominguez Canyon Wilderness Area. The Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness ActThe bill would designate approximately 250,000 thousand acres of backcountry in Rocky Mountain National Park as wilderness. It includes key compromises reached in the 110th Congress that: help protect water rights and water delivery through the park to northern Colorado communities; provide the possibility of constructing a bicycle trail along the western edge of the park; and allow for continued efforts to mitigate the impacts of bark beetles and to prevent and combat forest fires. The Arkansas Valley Conduit ActThe bill would establish a 35 percent federal cost share for the construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit, a proposed 130-mile water delivery system from Pueblo Dam to communities throughout the Arkansas River valley. The conduit was originally authorized in 1962 as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas project. The Jackson Gulch Rehabilitation ActThe bill would authorize federal funding to rehabilitate the Jackson Gulch irrigation canal, which delivers water from Jackson Gulch Dam to residents, farms and businesses in Montezuma County. In addition to providing supplemental agricultural water for about 8,650 irrigated acres and a domestic water supply for the Mesa Verde National Park, the Mancos Project also delivers water to the more than 500 members of the Mancos Rural Water Company, the Town of Mancos and at least 237 agricultural businesses. The Front Range Mountain Backdrop ActThe bill would direct the U.S. Forest Service to work with local communities along the Front Range to identify ways in which they can protect open spaces and natural resources near the Arapahoe-Roosevelt National Forest. The Baca Wildlife Refuge Management ActThe bill would amend the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Act of 2000 to explain the purpose and provide for the administration of the Baca National Wildlife Refuge. When the Great Sand Dunes National Park was established, the legislation lacked a statement of purpose for the Baca National Wildlife refuge. This legislation defines the purpose of the refuge as follows: …to restore, enhance, and maintain wetland, upland, riparian, and other habitats for native wildlife, plant and fish species in the San Luis Valley. The South Park National Heritage Area ActThe bill would designate South Park as a National Heritage Area, which would protect 19 working ranches along 30 miles of stream corridor and 17,000 acres of wetlands and agricultural lands in the headwaters of the South Platte River. The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage ActThe bill would designate a National Heritage Area in Conejos, Costilla and Alamosa counties in the San Luis Valley. Flanked by the Sangre de Cristos to the east and the San Juan range to the west, these three counties are at the confluence of Native American, Hispano and Anglo cultures. The areas rich cultural traditions, fertile lands and rugged mountains make the valley one of our nations crown jewels. The Cache la Poudre River Corridor National Heritage Technical Adjustment ActThe bill would fix a problem in the law that originally established the Cache La Poudre River National Heritage Area in 1996. Because of a glitch in the statute, the Secretary of Interior has been unable to appoint a commission to manage the heritage area. This bill designates a local non-profit organization, the Poudre Heritage Alliance, as the management entity for the heritage area.