Just out of the gate for its 2009 session, the U.S. Senate has made quick work in passing an omnibus lands bill that has much to like in the protections it offers public lands across the country and in Colorado. Specifically, the measure - which now faces a House vote - would grant wilderness protection to more than 300,000 acres in the state.
Under the Omnibus Public Land Management Act, nearly 250,000 acres in Rocky Mountain National Park's backcountry and 66,000 acres in the Dominguez Canyon area near Grand Junction would be designated as wilderness. That permanent protection is the culmination of many years of work by grass-roots conservation organizations, lawmakers, hunters, anglers and other advocates for public land protection to build consensus around wilderness designation. That is no easy task as there are many interests vying for representation in land-management plans, and as the most restrictive designation, wilderness is a challenge to build consensus around. It is nevertheless an instrumental tool in protecting the lands that are important for their untrammeled beauty.
That is certainly the case with both the Rocky Mountain National Park areas and those protected in Dominguez Canyon, and the Senate was right to include the regions, along with National Conservation Area designation for the Dominguez-Escalante area, in the omnibus measure. The measure now heads to the House of Representatives, where lawmakers would be wise to approve it for the long-term benefit of lands and communities in Colorado and across the country.