Polis to reintroduce wilderness bill | SummitDaily.com

Polis to reintroduce wilderness bill

The bill U.S. Rep. Jared Polis submitted as a result of the Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign is expected to be reintroduced in Congress sometime this spring.

Polis spokeswoman Lara Cottingham said the bill, called The Eagle and Summit County Wilderness Preservation Act, didn’t move during Congress’s last session. Cottingham said the election had something to do with the lack of progress for many pieces of legislation.

“Everyone was in campaign mode,” she said. Cottingham said the bill is still a priority for Polis, a Boulder Democrat who is now a member of the minority party in the U.S. House of Representatives. Because the Senate still has a Democratic majority, Cottingham said it’s possible the bill could be picked up in the Senate and move through that way.

“The rules of the game have changed, but you keep playing,” Cottingham said. She said the bill will likely look almost identical to what was introduced last year. If there are any changes, Polis’s office will let the public know, she said.

The bill proposes to designate 166,000 acres of public land in Eagle and Summit Counties as wilderness and special protection areas. The debate was a hot topic around Eagle County in 2010, as both supporters and opponents debated how local public lands should be used or protected. Supporters argued the lands should be protected from motorized and mechanized uses, and opponents, particularly recreational users such as snowmobilers and mountain bikers, argued the lands are public and should be open for public uses. Polis held several public meetings about the Hidden Gems wilderness proposal, which includes 342,000 acres across Summit, Eagle, Pitkin and Gunnison Counties, and said he went through the proposal “trail by trail” before drafting the bill.

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