On Thursday, however, attention turns back to Udall, as he testifies about his bill to preserve some of southwestern Colorado's most iconic public lands in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado to fellow members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources' Public Lands and Forests Subcommittee.
A live webcast of Udall’s testimony will be broadcast at 2:30 p.m. eastern time on Thursday, March 22 at http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/live-webcast.
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.
The bill 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.
After the bill is heard by the ENR subcommittee this afternoon, it will either be marked up and sent to the Senate floor for an eventual vote, sent back to the committee staff for revisions, or killed, said Sheep Mountain Alliance Executive Director Hilary White, who has closely watched the progress of this Wilderness legislation since Udall and Bennet previously introduced it in 2009.
White has high hopes that the first option will prevail.
“This bill has been through extensive revisions already, so we are pretty confident this version works for both committee Republicans and Democrats,” she said.
Meanwhile, as the bill awaits its fate in the Senate, Tipton has still not tipped his hand as to whether he will support similar legislation in the House.
In late September 2011, he attended a listening session in Ouray that drew over 400 wilderness advocates and opponents from throughout the region. His staff has since conducted two open house events in Silverton and Telluride to meet with concerned constituents on the matter.
Wilderness advocates throughout the region have turned up the heat in recent weeks, putting ads in regional papers and sending a letter to the congressman, urging him to make up his mind one way or the other, and to let the community know how he feels.
“We’re waiting to hear back from him on that,” White said.