San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act
Facts and Information
LATEST UPDATE: In January 2019, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet and Congressman Joe Neguse introduced the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy (CORE) Act, which includes the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act along with three other public land protection bills.
HISTORICALLY: In April 2018, Senator Bennet introduced the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act (SJMWA), which protects nearly 60,000 acres in the heart of the San Juan Mountains.
Former Congressman John Salazar originally introduced SJMWA in 2009.
The SJMWA was developed collaboratively with local communities, businesses, and user groups.
County Commissions in Ouray, San Juan, and San Miguel support the act.
Town Councils in Mountain Village, Norwood, Ophir, Ridgway, and Telluride also support the act.
Approximately 60,000 acres would be protected under this act.
Wilderness Designations include:
31,488 acres of NEW wilderness areas
23,000 acres are additions to the existing Lizard Head and Mount Sneffels Wilderness Areas
8,600 acres surrounding McKenna Peak, which is currently a Wilderness Study Area, would be designated as wilderness under the act. This would be the first desert peak designated as wilderness in southwest Colorado.
Special Management Areas (SMA) include:
21,675 acres as the Sheep Mountain SMA – one of the largest roadless areas in Colorado not currently designated wilderness
792 acres as the Liberty Bell East SMA would round out existing wilderness designations and put the iconic Sneffels Peak within wilderness
6,590 acres of Naturita Canyon, a tributary of the San Miguel, would be protected from future oil and gas leasing
Headwaters of San Miguel, Uncompahgre, and Animas rivers would be protected by the act.
The bill footprint covers 17 total river miles
2.5 miles of Colorado River cutthroat trout (CRCT) habitat are encompassed in the bill
CRCT occupy less than 10% of their historic range. Additional habitat protections are critical to their survival.
The act expands watershed and riparian area protections. The municipal water supply of Norwood would be protected through the mineral withdrawal in Naturita Canyon.
The act would protect scenic vistas, watersheds, and wildlife habitat in such iconic areas as the Sneffels Range, Lizard Head, Ice Lake Basin, and Sheep Mountain.
Includes habitat sanctuaries for all big game species in Colorado
Protects important linkage corridors for elk, deer, and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
One of the most productive mule deer units in Colorado
Protections for endangered habitats of the Gunnison sage grouse, Canada Lynx, and Mexican spotted owl are also included.
In Colorado, hunters, anglers, and wildlife viewers had a $5.1 billion economic impact in 2017.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife 2017 Fact Sheet
Residents of the 3rd Congressional district spend nearly $2.2 billion on recreation per year.
Outdoor Industry Association 2017 Economic Impact Report
RECREATION AND OTHER PROTECTIONS
The act protects areas adjacent to popular four-wheel drive routes, such as Yankee Boy Basin.
Exceptions have been made for current permittees for established running races, helicopter operations, and other recreation considerations already in effect.