Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness Act returns to Senate |

Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness Act returns to Senate

Tonya Bina
Rocky Mountain National Park

The ball is rolling once again on the Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness Act.

It’s one of Sen. Mark Udall’s (D-CO) first pieces of legislation in the Senate and Sen. Ken Salazar’s last before heading to the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Udall is most familiar with the bill having supported Rocky Mountain National Park wilderness back in 1998 when first elected to Congress.

The Wilderness Act has been possible legislation since 1974 when President Nixon recommended to Congress 239,835 Park acres for immediate designation and 5,169 acres for potential designation as wilderness.

Ever since, the Park has been managed similar to a wilderness area in anticipation of the official designation.

Through the years, the Park’s Wilderness Act has hit bumps in the road, such as lacking support from gateway towns or most recently, concerns over Grand River Ditch water rights and liability.

The Wilderness Act would preserve and protect 249,339 acres of the Park, excluding the Grand River Ditch, primary roadways and developed areas.

“The legislation will guarantee the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park will be managed so that future generations will experience the park as we know it today,” said Udall in statements released earlier this month. “The bill will also allow the National Park Service to continue its important efforts to battle the devastating bark beetle infestation and to engage in necessary wildfire mitigation efforts and emergency response actions. Moreover, the bill ensures the wilderness designation will not affect water rights connected to the Colorado Big Thompson Project or the Grand River Ditch and allows possible construction of a bike trail near Grand Lake.”

The bike trail was proposed by Grand County on behalf of the Headwaters Trails Alliance and Grand Lake during prior negotiations to continue the Fraser to Granby trail toward Grand Lake. The trail would snake along the eastern shores of the Granby and Shadow Mountain reservoirs.

Both gateway towns are on board with the pending legislation.

Wilderness designation would not alter any current visitor activities or access within Rocky Mountain National Park, and would allow visitors to use the park in the same ways and locations they presently enjoy, according to the Park.

The Wilderness Act is presently in committee review.

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail

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