Photo: John Gale
DENVER _ A bill by Colorado Sen. Mark Udall that would conserve about 61,000 acres in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado recognizes the grassroots support for protecting backcountry prized by hunters and anglers across the state and the country, John Gale of the National Wildlife Federation said Wednesday.
The San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act would designate 33,000 acres as wilderness, mostly through expansion of the Lizard Head and Mount Sneffels wilderness areas. It would include McKenna Peak, which encompasses sandstone cliffs rising 2,000 above the plain, and classify 22,000 acres as a special management area where current recreational uses will continue.
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, is co-sponsoring the bill.
``This bill was created as a result of support and input from the ground level,’’ said Gale, a regional representative of NWF. ``Sportsmen and conservation groups applaud the senators’ foresight in preserving the integrity of one of Colorado’s most iconic places to hunt and fish.’’
The area covered by the legislation includes two of Colorado’s ``Fourteeners’’ _ peaks over 14,000 feet in elevation. The backcountry is vital as wildlife habitat, a water source for area communities and an economic driver for the region, which attracts hunters, anglers and outdoor recreation enthusiasts from across the country.
`` As someone who spends time hunting and fishing in the San Juans with his family,’’ Gale said, ``I commend the senators for standing up to preserve our Western heritage and an important, sustainable cornerstone of our economy.’’
Hunting, angling and other wildlife-related activities generate more than $2 billion annually statewide. The benefits for the economy, wildlife and lifestyle that will result from safeguarding the area are important to NWF and its roughly 20,000 members in Colorado, Gale said.
The San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act: http://scr.bi/qTHnhM