Congressman Jared Polis (D-Boulder) has announced plans to reintroduce a bill that would protect tens of thousands of acres of land in Colorado’s central mountains. It’s similar to a bill he proposed last year that didn’t gain much traction in a sharply divided Congress.
The so-called Eagle and Summit County Wilderness Preservation Act would set aside mostly mid-elevation forests and high desert lands for protection from development. Most of the areas are adjacent to existing wilderness lands.
"And they offer more recreation opportunities,” says Kurt Kunkle of the Colorado Environmental Coalition, one of the groups backing the bill. He says it’s critical to protecting wildlife habitat that’s being squeezed due to development. “During the winter months, a lot of the areas are covered in snow, and have dangerous avalanche conditions, so the lower elevation areas bring in lands where people can enjoy a wilderness experience on snowshoes and cross country skis safely, and they’re more easily accessed.”
But some opponents of adding new wilderness in the central mountains worry they’ll lose access to some of these lands where they’ve long snow machined in. The Polis bill is a pared down version of the so-called Hidden Gems proposal, which environmentalists have pushed for more than a decade.