For Immediate Release 5/21/2015
Jason Bertolacci, IMBA, 303-956-9099
Scott Braden, Conservation Colorado, 720-530-7473
Photo: Rep. Jared Polis visited IMBA's office recently to discuss his land protection plans.
Breckenridge, CO (May 21, 2015) – A coalition of outdoor recreationists, sportsmen, small business owners, local elected officials, and conservationists today applauded a bill to protect Colorado’s central Rocky Mountains. Congressman Jared Polis’ introduction of the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act would safeguard roughly 60,000 acres of land through wilderness and other designations in Eagle and Summit counties. The areas serve as popular recreation destinations, critical habitat for wildlife, and sources of clean water.
The name Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act was chosen during a two-week long contest, in which roughly 200 Coloradans suggested titles that would honor this recreation and wildlife haven to the west of Denver. The contest reflected the “for Coloradans by Coloradans” nature of the proposal.
“For years, people have been coming together to safeguard this portion of the Rocky Mountains—the backbone of our local economy,” said Dan Gibbs, a Summit County Commissioner. “In addition to our thriving outdoor recreation and tourism economy, people choose to live here because of our incredible backyard.”
Over the past five years, local community members have been working to protect this area of Colorado’s Continental Divide. The legislation would add new areas to the Ptarmigan Peak, Holy Cross, and Eagles Nest wilderness areas as well as establish three new wilderness areas: Hoosier Ridge, Tenmile, and Williams Fork in addition to the Porcupine Gulch Protection Area.
The legislation also includes the Tenmile Recreation Management Area, which would protect important lands and trails for mountain biking and other recreation uses. “Like hikers, skiers, hunters and anglers, mountain bikers have come to love and respect these lands through exploration and adventure. We recognize the need to protect both the ecological resources of the land and the dependent local recreation economies. Congressman Polis' bill represents a welcomed evolution of land protection using a variety of tools to maximize protection while retaining quality trail access,” said Jason Bertolacci, International Mountain Bicycling Association's Colorado/Wyoming Regional Director.
Preserving Colorado’s Continental Divide will safeguard sportsmen’s time-tested backcountry traditions, and secure access for world-class hunting and fishing. The Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act would protect ecologically important mid-elevation areas that provide vital wildlife habitat to black bear, elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, moose, lynx, and wild turkey.
Garett Reppenhagen, a U.S. Army Kosovo and Iraq War veteran said, “I fought to protect all that makes our nation great, and that includes the public lands that belong to every American. I want to salute Rep. Jared Polis for his leadership in safeguarding our natural heritage, and look forward to Senator Michael Bennet introducing a Senate companion.”
People come to Colorado’s central Rocky Mountains to hike, camp, ski, kayak, raft, hunt, fish, mountain bike, horseback ride, ATV, and snowmobile. Outdoor recreation is critical to Colorado’s economy. It generates $13.2 billion in consumer spending and is responsible for 125,000 jobs that pay $4.2 billion in salaries and wages. The Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act would play an important role in maintaining and contributing to this important part of our state’s economy.
“Protected public lands help provide clean water and safeguard such lands from future development,” said Joe Macy, Eagle County Resident and Fishing Guide. “Clean water is essential for the healthy fisheries that our guests from all over need to enjoy the outdoors.” Over a dozen stakeholder groups have submitted letters to Rep. Polis in support of safeguarding Colorado’s Continental Divide. The coalition looks forward to working with Rep. Jared Polis and Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner in safeguarding the areas that would be protected by the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act.
Read a Denver Post story about the bill.