Congress passes wilderness bill; 2 West Slope canyons protected

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Years of work by western Coloradans finally paid off Wednesday when new protections for the Dominguez Canyon area cleared Congress.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 285-140 in favor of the sweeping Omnibus Public Lands Bill. It now heads to the desk of President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it.

It includes creation of the 210,000-acre Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area on the Uncompahgre Plateau. The area will include the 60,000-acre Dominguez Canyon Wilderness.

The measure also creates nearly 250,000 acres of wilderness within Rocky Mountain National Park.

The wilderness designations are the first in the state since 2002.

Chris Hunt of Trout Unlimited said 26 million acres nationally have conservation area status. The omnibus bill gives them permanent protection under law, rather than protection by order of presidential administrations, which can be reversed, Hunt said.