Grantee Weekly Grind: Colorado’s Summit County Commissioners Support the Polis Wilderness Plan


In 2010, the Conservation Alliance awarded Colorado Environmental Coalition (CEC) a grant to protect wilderness quality lands in Colorado for the benefit of their wildlife populations, scenery, backcountry recreation opportunities, importance to Colorado's long-term economic prosperity, the many important environmental services they provide, and future generations. Last week, the CEC recognized the Summit County commissioners for their support of Congressman Jared Polis' wilderness bill.

Via Bob Berwyn at Summit County Citizens Voice:

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado conservation advocates are hopeful that their plan to expand and add wilderness areas in the state may still have a chance before the current session of Congress winds up in in a couple of months. And earlier this month, the Summit County commissioners sent a letter of support to Congressman Jared Polis, recognizing the important legacy of wilderness in Summit County.

There has been some talk of trying to move major omnibus lands act through the lame duck Congress — a measure that could include a San Juan wilderness measure, as well as the Eagle and Summit County Wilderness Preservation Act, which is a scaled-back version of the Hidden Gems wilderness proposal

Polis introduced the wilderness bill just before the November election. The measure would add about 88,000 acres of new wilderness and provide a more uncertain level of protection for another 78,000 acres under so-called companion designations on Forest Service lands in Summit and Eagle counties.

The Hidden Gems proposal, which formed the basis for Polis’s bill, originally identified about 300,000 acres on the White River National Forest as suitable for wilderness designation. After a thorough vetting process and an ongoing dialogue with stakeholders like mountain bike and motorized user groups, several areas were sliced out of the proposal, while others would be protected as recreation or conservation areas.

In early November, the Summit County commissioners sent a letter to Polis expressing measured support for his wilderness bill, specifically praising Polis for addressing the concerns of the wildfire council and the local mountain biking community.

County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said there are still a few lingering concerns about impacts to mountain bike trails, but that the Polis bill is a move in the right direction.

The letter from the commissioners also addressed specific wording the Polis measure that is related to the ability of the Forest Service to pre- and post-fire mitigation. The letter also addresses the issue of funding for public land management.

The Pitkin County Commissioners have voted to support the Polis wilderness bill, according the Colorado Independent.

photo by Zach Dischner