The U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 26 approved the Protecting America's Wilderness and Public Lands Act (HR 803) that aims to permanently protect nearly three million acres across Colorado, California, Washington and Arizona.
The legislation is a collection of eight separate public lands bills the House approved last year – including Rep Diana DeGette’s Colorado Wilderness Act (CWA) and Rep. Joe Neguse’s Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act (CORE). The Colorado bills include 1,060,000 acres, about 1.6% of the total area of the state.
Here's just three of the areas included in the CWA and CORE.
CWA: Badger Creek gathers waters across a wide expanse of land before flowing into the Arkansas River. Photo, Kate Spinelli
CWA: The Palisade is one of western Colorado's rugged canyon country Wildernesses. Photo, John Fielder.
CORE: designates a National Historic Landscape around Camp Hale to preserve and promote the 10th Mountain Divisionís legacy. Photo, Sierra Club
Senate passage is not a slam dunk! Contact Colorado and/or your Senators to champion the PAW+ Act, and let them know that it should remain as one large package so that the most Colorado and US public lands and water will be protected!
The Colorado Wilderness Act began as the Citizen’s Wilderness Plan, developed by a group of concerned citizens and organizations, including Wild Connections, who inventoried federal lands throughout the state to identify pristine lands that met the criteria for Wilderness designation.
The proposal was modified after discussion and was presented to Congresswoman Diana DeGette. She agreed those lands required protection and introduced a bill to designate the areas as Wilderness, which is the strongest level of land protection in the country. The need for this protection has only grown as more people have moved or traveled to Colorado to enjoy the natural splendor here.
Congresswoman DeGette has introduced the Colorado Wilderness Act in every Congress since 1999. The new bill reflects the efforts of grassroots activists to update the inventory of Colorado’s lands with wilderness characteristics. It aims to protect lower-lying BLM lands that have historically been less of a focus than the higher, alpine-zone areas for which Colorado is more well-known.
Many of the proposed areas are mid-elevation ecosystems that are underrepresented in currently designated Colorado Wilderness, and they provide valuable habitat for a staggering variety of plants and wildlife. These areas include stunning red cliffs, winding river-ways, and steep, rocky ridges.
The proposed wilderness areas in our region include Browns Canyon in the Upper Arkansas River Valley, Badger Creek, Table Mountain, McIntyre Hills, and Grape Creek in the Arkansas River Canyonlands, and Beaver Creek, located between Canon City and Colorado Springs.
Congresswoman DeGette's Colorado Wilderness Act protects 6,600,000 acres of wilderness across Colorado and is right in line with President Biden’s recent 30x30 pledge to protect 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030.
For Wild Connections region, this bill proposes to protect six distinct areas for their wild values, including Beaver Creek, Grape Creek, McIntyre Hills, Table Mountain, Badger Creek, and the Browns Canyon National Monument.
This is a great step in our fight to preserve Colorado’s wilderness for generations to come, particularly as more than 2/3 of Coloradans are concerned about the future of our state's public lands.
CWA areas along the Arkansas River canyon
John Sztukowski and John Stansfield feature Table Mountain and Beaver Creek in the video to the left.
McIntyre Hills Proposed Wilderness. Photo John Fielder.
Sangre de Cristo Mountains over Badger Creek Proposed Wilderness. Photo Kate Spinelli.
Table Mountain proposed Wilderness. Photo Kate Spinelli.
Hikers in Browns Canyon. Photo Steven Veach
Wild Connections' mission is to identify, protect, and restore wildlands, native species, and biological diversity in the Arkansas and South Platte watersheds. They are the ancestral lands of the Ute, Cheyenne, Arapaho and other indigenous peoples.