Voices and votes take charge on outdoor conservation issues in Colorado and Utah

Here we are, barely into 2020 and “the issues” are already getting crowded. With more than enough buzz in your newsfeed to drown out important topics close to home, here’s a sampling of public lands and outdoor conservation items that will be coming down the pike this year.

Wolf Reintroduction on the 2020 Colorado Ballot

For the first time ever, Colorado voters will have the opportunity to decide whether they want to reintroduce wolves to their historic territory. A coalition of conservation organizations, the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund, recently succeeded in acquiring enough petition signatures to add Initiative 107 to the ballot. A recent poll suggests strong support for reintroduction across the state, but several agriculture and hunting organizations – including the Colorado Farm Bureau and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation – have come out against the measure.

The Colorado Wilderness Act
Dolores River
The Colorado Wilderness Act of 2019 calls for areas across the Colorado, to be designated as wilderness. San Juan Citizens Alliance

The effort to designate over 600,000 acres of public land as wilderness in Colorado has been around for a long time. U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette first introduced it as the Citizens Wilderness Plan in 1999 and has continued to push for it ever since. Now known as the Colorado Wilderness Act of 2019, the legislation calls for areas across the state, including the Dolores River Canyon, Handies Peak and Browns Canyon, to be designated as wilderness. On Nov. 20 of last year, the House Committee on Natural Resources voted to approve the legislation 21-13. It will head to the full House for a vote sometime this year. Another piece of public lands legislation, the CORE Act, is currently awaiting support in the Senate from U.S. Senator Cory Gardner.

Bureau of Land Management Oil and Gas Lease Sales

The Bureau of Land Management conducts lease sales of public lands for oil-and-gas development four times a year. Each sale requires a comment and protest period, which allows for public input in favor or against the sale. According to Rocky Mountain Wild, there are two upcoming lease sales in Colorado and Utah that affect an Area of Critical Environmental Concern and Colorado State Wildlife Areas, including greater sage-grouse, Mexican spotted owl and bald eagle habitat. The public comment period is open for the lease sales through Feb. 24 on the BLM Colorado and Utah Oil and Gas Lease Sales websites.