For years, citizens have been working to expand local wilderness areas in Summit and Eagle Counties, and an updated bill will be introduced in 2015 as the "Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act". The new bill will add roughly 40,000 acres to the Eagles Nest and Holy Cross wilderness areas and protect 10,000 acres as special management area. The Representative Jared Polis’s bill has support from conservation groups, the Town of Vail, Eagle County and other governments and the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association. In May 2015, the bill received praise and support from ranking House Natural Resources Committee Democrat Raul Grijalva from Arizona, who committed to make this bill a priority.
Polis has led an outreach effort that has resulted in consensus amongst a diverse group of stakeholders. Over the years, dozens of boundary changes have been made to accommodate various interests such as mountain bikers and water districts. A growing number of citizens and businesses have voiced their support for the effort, citing the economic value of wilderness, a vast resource for the state’s tourism economy. The outdoor recreation industry supports over 100,000 jobs and generates over $10 billion in revenue a year here in Colorado.
In 2014 Polis introduced the Rocky Mountain Recreation and Wilderness Preservation Act that proposed to protect 60,000 acres in Eagle and Summit Counties. In February 2012, Sen. Mark Udall unveiled his Central Mountains Outdoor Heritage proposal, which included all the same areas and acreages as Polis’s 2014 bill, plus citizen-proposed areas in Pitkin County.
These bills build off of ground work from an earlier and larger wilderness proposal that covered 340,000 acres in Summit, Eagle, Pitkin and Gunnison Counties.
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