Colorado Wilderness Act of 2019

DaveInDenver

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Another one that might get legs soon. This is one Rep DeGette has introduced every year since 1999 and she has added Rep Neguse (of the CORE Act) as a co-sponsor and has apparently been promised a reading in committee this year. That would be the first time that's happened.

https://degette.house.gov/sites/degette.house.gov/files/Colorado Wilderness Act of 2018 Background Materials.pdf

This one has a lot of acreage, its grow to over 700,000. I'm concerned about the Bangs Canyon, Roubideau, The Palisade Unaweep, Sewemup Mesa, Norwood Canyon and some of the others. The Tabaguache of course and there's lots of motorcycle and MTB single track that might be impacted.

Bill Burke took you guys up where some of this is north of I-70 I think.

Colorado Wilderness Act Picture.png


Colorado Wilderness Act Table.png
 

DaveInDenver

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There was a letter to the editor today in the GJ Sentinel about this bill. So I'm starting to look into it more, trying to gather datasets.

First thing is to find Shapefiles for what is being proposed, which is difficult. Opinion aside - I think if Congress is going to keep proposing these new Wildernesses the 1964 law needs to be amended to require any proposed Wilderness to be a study area first to allow comment and two that proposed Wildernesses must be mapped in typically accepted GIS formats and put into the public domain for review.

None-the-less, I was able to find some Colorado BLM office Wilderness datasets and it appears DeGette is proposing for the most part things that are in-fact currently Wilderness Study Areas (WSA) or Lands with Wilderness Characteristics (LWC).

I laid the Tabegauche Trail over and the first thing I find is it seems to cut off the extension of the trail just opened a couple of years ago south of Clark's Bench to Whitewater.

What this means is that she's probably hasn't talked to locals (like COPMOBA) or actually been in Bang's Canyon for some time otherwise she would know this LWC would need at minimum adjustment to cherry stem in an open and legal route for motorized traffic and MTBs. But I also admit I need to read the text of the bill to verify the legal description matches the SHP file.

bangscanyon-tabeguache-degette.png
 
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DaveInDenver

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Well, the full court press appears to be on to sneak this through while everyone is distracted by holidays and the other political circuses. This is adding somewhere around 600,000 to 700,000 new acres of legalized, no motor vehicles, no bikes, no snowmobiles Wilderness.

https://www.gjsentinel.com/news/wes...cle_131841b0-0c22-11ea-96c1-20677ce07cb4.html

Wilderness bill advances
Rep. DeGette’s 20-year effort faces much opposition
By DENNIS WEBB
Dennis.Webb@gjsentinel.com

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette’s 20-year effort to get a Colorado wilderness bill passed achieved a milestone Wednesday when it was approved by the House Natural Resources Committee. The bill includes 32 areas and more than 600,000 acres, some of it in and around Mesa County. This was the first time that DeGette, D-Denver, has had her Colorado Wilderness Act called up for a vote by committee since she began introducing versions of it in 1999. It is expected to soon head to the full, Democrat-controlled House for consideration.

But Natural Resources Committee member John Curtis, R-Utah, said during Wednesday’s proceedings that it will be nearly impossible to get the measure through the Senate and signed by President Trump into law without the support of U.S. Reps. Scott Tipton and Doug Lamborn, whose districts contain the land covered by the bill. Lamborn voted Wednesday against the measure, which was approved by a 21-13 vote with only Democrats voting for it and only Republicans against it.

DeGette told Curtis that she has consulted with Tipton, Lamborn and their predecessors on the bill over the years, as well as with U.S. senators from Colorado.

But she added, “It’s not just one person who controls all the public land in their district. Public lands belong to everyone.”

Among acreage included in the bill is 25,624 acres in Demaree Canyon northwest of Grand Junction near the Utah border, 28,279 acres in the Little Bookcliffs area north of Palisade, more than 18,000 acres in Bangs Canyon south of Grand Junction, and more than 26,000 acres making up The Palisade and nearly 20,000 acres in Unaweep Canyon, both southwest of Grand Junction.

DeGette’s office describes the bill as the largest land-protection measure in Colorado in 25 years.

Another bill, the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, or CORE, would provide wilderness or other forms of protections to some 400,000 acres of public lands in areas including the San Juan Mountains, Thompson Divide southwest of Glenwood Springs and along the Colorado Divide. It recently passed the House but faces tougher passage in the Republican-controlled Senate, especially if it can’t win support from Tipton, whose 3rd Congressional District includes much of the affected acreage.

He similarly has reservations about DeGette’s bill. In a statement Wednesday, Tipton, R-Cortez, said that “any changes to federal management of public lands must be done … with broad community support. I appreciate Congresswoman DeGette reaching out to some of the constituents in Colorado’s Third Congressional District and having discussions with my office, but her bill as written does not incorporate the necessary adjustments to garner more community support.”

Among concerns he has raised are potential impacts on the operational area for the Department of Defense’s High-Altitude Aviation Training Site based in Eagle County, challenges wilderness areas pose to healthy forest management, “and a general sentiment that some of the communities most affected by this bill simply do not want any more wilderness designations,” he said.

DeGette spokesman Ryan Brown said a proposal to include the Deep Creek area west of the HAATS site was removed from the original bill in part out of “an abundance of caution” related to the HAATS concerns.

Mesa, Garfield, Montezuma and Dolores counties all have objected to DeGette’s bill. Lamborn cited some of that opposition and his own concerns in opposing the measure Wednesday. He worried about the restrictions imposed in wilderness areas, such as the ban on motorized vehicles.
“I just want the most people to have the most access for the most uses,” he said.

DeGette says about two-thirds of the areas in the bill already have been wilderness study areas for more than 30 years.
“Providing these majestic landscapes the permanent protection they deserve will ensure they remain available for many years to come,” DeGette said.

Her measure focuses largely on mid-elevation lands that provide benefits including important plant and wildlife habitat and wide-ranging recreational use, whereas many of Colorado’s current wilderness areas are at higher elevations.

Entities including the Outdoor Alliance, Outdoor Industry Association, Colorado Mountain Club and San Juan Citizens Alliance have endorsed the bill.
 
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DaveInDenver

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The bill was read in committee and passed to be reported to the full House on November 20, 2019. It's chance of passing is now set at 11% by Govtrack. People, stand up and notice, this is 700,000 new acres of Wilderness. No bikes, no motorcycles, no trucks, no dispersed camping along the roads. It may be mostly benign since a significant part of it is legalizing current Wilderness Study Areas into Wilderness. But if that happens the change is permanent and only Congress can reverse it. That can only occur if you're a rich Hollywood producer or political donor who's land was inadvertently cut off from a water source and you need a section of previously designated Wilderness cut out to let you build a road to get at it.

https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/2546?q=%7B%22search%22%3A[%22H.R.%202546%22]%7D&s=1&r=1

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/116/hr2546
 

jps8460

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I don’t think it’s a matter of stand up and notice. I think a lot of us notice and feel helpless.

Unfortunately there is no “funding” in middle ground. “Environmentalists” groups have been far more organized for far longer than any pro OHV activists groups (does this even exist).... Until we become more organized and much more “funded” I don’t see us winning this battle (battle, because there’s no money in middle ground).

While I write my letters and try to make folks near to me aware of these issues, I feel defeated.

I’m not an activist organizer, and not savvy with rallying folks to “fight”. To be honest I’m the last person that would be able to inspire folks to think we can navigate our current political situation to get anything the people actually want.

I appreciate you posting these items and I hope that they don’t fall on deaf ears.

I picture myself cold calling people and asking for donations to turn the world into wilderness.

Then I picture cold calling and asking people to make the world more OHV friendly.

Until we can make our argument sound as appealing, I don’t know how we’ll ever afford our own politician(s).
 

DaveInDenver

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I think the OHV community is maybe dysfunctional and the money is there if Toyota, Jeep, Can-Am, Honda, etc. wanted to help. But they don't have any reason to care as long as a few heavily trafficked areas exist for the 5th wheel toy haulers to tear up (evidence Temple Mountain in the Swell). When it's done being pulverized, closed and the masses move on to the next place to pulverize the only care is they keep spending 6 figures. It's as much saddening that we lose access as it is because it's our own damn fault. Our fault for not paying attention, our fault for giving antis more than sufficient evidence to support closures.

The stop I think is mountain bikes, they're going to overstep too many times closing bikes from Wilderness and the political winds will change enough to allow bikes. Which I think was obvious to the powers that be and that's why electric bikes are being pushed (also $$$$, which doesn't hurt corporate interests) as fungible with human powered ones. That's why my personal position is e-bikes are motorcycles unless specifically exempted on a trail-by-trail basis. They should not be lumped in because then we lose the logical argument that a human-powered bicycle is no more "mechanized" than a river raft, climbing gear, modern touring skis or Gore-Tex and ultra light backpacking gear.

So I post this stuff maybe as much for posterity so that someday someone reads what we used to have available but the God's honest truth is most of my energy, time and money go to trying to amend the Wilderness Act to clarify that Congress either meant mechanized or not. Not selectively this machine is OK but that is not. There's some common ground with equestrians and hunters on this because they like to use trailers and carts. Since the anti-MTB in Wilderness rule is administrative in the 1980s due to a Sierra Club friendly USFS and BLM staffing they got backdoor rules in place that are tenuous as it is since prior to about 1986 bicycles were allowed in Wilderness. If they allowed wheeled carts but not bicycles in they'd most assuredly have no legal foundation to withstand a challenge.

In the end all I can say is I tried and if (when) it's a loss so be it. It's deflating and depressing but I don't know how I could reconcile if we do nothing. We're not favored in popular culture and the act of driving is coming to an end. But the very act of exploring the unknown is dying just as fast. Hiking and biking trails are manufactured, manicured, signed and GPS tracked and mapped into essentially dirt surface golf courses. Almost no one even hiking goes into these Wildernesses. Something like 50% of the area within White River N.F. is now Wilderness but only 3% of the visits occur on those lands. So most people already just go to a popular trailhead and never get more than 3 miles from it Wilderness or not. You walk two days into a Wilderness and you're bushwhacking overgrown and lost trails. It's exactly the interpretation the very left environmentalists want, tens and eventually hundreds of millions of acres that no one will ever use or see. To them humans are an infection to the world and we should feel guilty for ever existing, much less have so much audacity as to use resources and explore our world.
 
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ScaldedDog

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Dave, I "liked" your post, but the fact is, I hate it for it's accuracy. You are spot on.

Is this particular abomination going to pass the Senate? If it has a chance of not (and I don't know where it is in the legislative process, so it may be too late), bending the ear of the one senator we have who might represent us is something we can do now.

Mark
 

DaveInDenver

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Dave, I "liked" your post, but the fact is, I hate it for it's accuracy. You are spot on.

Is this particular abomination going to pass the Senate? If it has a chance of not (and I don't know where it is in the legislative process, so it may be too late), bending the ear of the one senator we have who might represent us is something we can do now.

Mark
It's only been passed from a House committee into consideration by the full House. It hasn't been debated or voted, has not been in Senate committee or anything. It's very early and the chance of becoming law is right now still remote. I don't think the BLM wants it and I doubt there's much real support to pass it. Of course the usual suspects are going to give it flowery support but I doubt any real political capital is going to spent. She's gotten nowhere with it every session since 1999 anyway. This is the first time in 20 years it got into committee.
 

DaveInDenver

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Speaking to the constant drive to designate more Wilderness, came across this website for an organization called Wilderness Need.

https://wildernessneed.org

Basically it echos what I mentioned about the WRNF.

From it, I quote. "In 40+ years visiting wild places throughout U.S. we have observed that wilderness visitors are not particularly welcome in the way wilderness is managed. Wilderness managers and groups mainly try to protect wilderness from visitors—not necessarily help visitors enjoy the wilderness nor design wilderness management to meet demand. For example, deteriorating legacy trails, lack of alternatives to popular over-used trailheads and inconsistent/difficult to obtain trip planning information are undermining good wilderness experience. All this despite the plethora of blogs,wonderful photos and generalized wilderness information available on Internet. Asa result, a few popular areas are over-used while most of the 110+ million acres of wilderness in the continental U.S. are rarely visited. Wilderness Need grew out of our desire to meet this gap."

IOW, even hikers who presumably are the center target for pushing out bikes and vehicles from public land aren't using most of it because without bikes and cars they can't get to them.

So who's the beneficiary? Why set aside all the land to protect it from mining, farming or building if it's not used for recreation instead? I agree sometimes very sensitive areas might be unsuited and should have no one disturb them. But that's not the intention here, the justification constantly used to protect wild lands for people, for the children, for future generations.

But the practical effect is to intensify use on the lands that remain, which has the paradoxical outcome of worse damage and pollution, worse habitat erosion and pressure on flora and fauna in those areas. So it seems clear what the eventual goal here is.
 
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subzali

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Looks like the house just passed this bill today...
 

DaveInDenver

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Looks like the house just passed this bill today...
Last action I see is:
"02/10/2020-7:15pmRules Committee Resolution H. Res. 844 Reported to House. Rule provides for consideration of H.R. 2546 and H.J. Res. 79. The resolution provides for one hour of debate on each measure. The resolution provides for consideration of H.R. 2546 under a structured rule and consideration of H.J.Res. 79 under a closed rule with a motion to recommit with or without instructions for each measure.
Action By: House of Representatives"

ETA: Appears to have passed under a House Resolution, H.R. 844.

https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-resolution/844

The Bloomberg article about the whole list, 1.3 million new acres of Wilderness in this one (note, the Colorado Wilderness are in addition to those in CORE).

https://news.bloombergenvironment.c...million-acres-of-wilderness-area-passes-house
 
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DaveInDenver

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https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/2546/related-bills

This bill was passed out the House in February on that sham of a resolution vote (H.R. 844). None-the-less there's a slew of Senate bills that are related.

One that got read twice and referred to committee is S.3288, PUBLIC Lands Act. It doesn't mention Colorado but does designate several Wildernesses around the country and might perhaps be amended. Not sure the status of DeGette's bill in the Senate. But gotta keep watching.

https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/3288
 

LARGEONE

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Neguse and DeGette are pushing this again. With little ability for it to be stopped.
 
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