WESTERN SAN JUANS – U.S. Representative Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) sends staffers to Telluride next week for an open house focusing on the fate of the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act of 2011. The event takes place from 7-9 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 10 in the Commissioner Meeting Room in the Miramonte Building, 333 West Colorado Avenue.
The meeting comes on the heels of a formal listening session Tipton attended in Ouray in late September, 2011, that drew over 400 wilderness advocates and opponents from throughout the region, and an open house in Silverton on Nov. 10, at which Tipton sent staffers to meet with concerned constituents.
The format of the Telluride event will be the same as the one in Silverton – “open house style, where people will be coming and going,” said Richard Schoenradt, a field representative from Tipton’s Grand Junction office.
At stake is the fate of a patchwork of more than 61,000 acres of mostly mountainous terrain in Ouray, San Miguel and San Juan Counties proposed for Wilderness designation, Wilderness Study Area, Special Management Area and other uses by Senate Bill 1635.
Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) introduced the legislation on Sept. 26, 2011. It is co-sponsored in the Senate by Michael Bennet (D-Colo.). According to Senate records, no major action has been taken on the bill since it was referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on the same day it was introduced.
This is the bill’s second incarnation. Udall and Bennet previously introduced it in 2009 with former Congressman John Salazar. Now, Tipton is being urged by many of his constituents to sponsor companion legislation in the House, picking up where Salazar left off when his reelection bid fell short in 2010.
Tipton has thus far been noncommittal about whether he will follow through with companion legislation, a source of frustration for key players in regional conservation organizations such as the Sheep Mountain Alliance, San Juan Citizens Alliance and the Ridgway-Ouray Community Council, which have been deeply invested in crafting the wilderness proposal at the grassroots level over the past several years.
Meanwhile, an increasingly vocal group of Wilderness opponents have also been making their concerns known – from United Nations conspiracy theories to the potential nullification of future mineral discoveries in the district.
Tipton is expected to announce shortly after the Telluride open house whether he will introduce companion legislation to SB 1635. Comments on the proposed San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act can be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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