By Lyndsie Ferrell
CREEDE— For the past several years, Congresswoman Diana DeGette has been pushing to introduce a new wilderness law through congress that would compile all of Colorado’s wilderness areas into one main region, closing off some of the national forests that surround places like Lake City, and though her efforts have yet to pay off, both Mineral County and Hinsdale County officials are against her succeeding.
DeGette originally introduced the bill in 2009 after researching Colorado wilderness areas and speaking with the public at large. Many residents have expressed the desire to have Colorado wilderness protected from the ever-increasing number of visitors that are flocking to the state. The Wilderness Act of 2015 was submitted to several committees for consideration before it went to the house floor and was denied.
In a joint commissioner’s meeting on Aug. 15, Hinsdale County Commissioners discussed this year’s Colorado Wilderness Act of 2018 and shared a letter written to DeGette strongly opposing the legislature. In the letter it states, “Hinsdale Board of County Commissioners believe that the current local, state and federal regulations protect the public lands within our counties. The commissioners also agree that we will not entertain or support further designations that limit development and/or multiple uses on our federally-managed public lands.”
During the regular mid-month meeting for Mineral County, commissioners discussed whether or not to join Hinsdale in writing a letter of their own, showing support for their neighbors that would be greatly affected by a change in wilderness declaration. Commissioners Ramona Weber started the conversation, stating that the board should send their own letter of opposition for principle. “Even though this legislature does not fall within Mineral County we should show our continued support for our neighbors for principle alone,” said Weber.
Three years ago, a similar legislature was proposed by DeGette and both of the counties responded with a similar letter of opposition. Chairman Scott Lamb agreed with Weber, stating that he felt they should draft a letter of their own to send to the congresswoman and ask that she consider the fact that the land she wants to designate as wilderness is the life blood of their communities. “The letter drafted by Hinsdale is perfect for what they are trying to achieve, but we need one drafted for the needs of this community, voicing our support for Hinsdale,” said Lamb.
Commissioners asked County Administrator Janelle Kukuk to have a letter drafted in time for the next monthly meeting in September, at which time commissioners would make any necessary changes before sending it to DeGette.