Ken Salazar dedicates western Colorado wilderness area |

Ken Salazar dedicates western Colorado wilderness area

GRAND JUNCTION (AP) – A 30-mile section of western Colorado’s Gunnison River and nearby canyons, cliffs and mesas have been dedicated as a national conservation and wilderness area.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was in Colorado on Wednesday for the formal dedication of the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area and the Dominguez Canyon Wilderness Area south of Grand Junction.

The areas encompass a combined 210,000 acres, or 328 square miles. The wilderness area alone accounts for 66,000 acres, or 103 square miles.

Salazar says the designation capped a two-year grass-roots effort supported by officials in Delta, Mesa, and Montrose counties that started while he was a U.S. senator from Colorado.

“This one we were able to do in a couple years in large part because we had a large grass-roots effort,” Salazar said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

“Now we have 300 square miles of land that are going to be protected for generations to come,” he said.

The area is one of seven Colorado provisions in wilderness legislation signed by President Barack Obama in March.

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter praised the area as a “magnificent addition to our country’s public lands system and a prime Colorado example of how to balance conservation and traditional uses.”

Obama will visit Grand Junction Saturday during a Western trip with his family.