Another wild opportunity

  The Bureau of Land Management has pushed 180,000 acres of Colorado outback a step closer to becoming wilderness study areas. The agency recently labeled the areas "roadless' after completing new surveys. The surveys were prompted by the Colorado Environmental Coalition, which said the areas should have been included in the BLM's 1980 survey of potential wilderness. "This is a fight to protect these lands in the interim until we can get Congress to act," says Suzanne Jones of the Wilderness Society. The six areas include the Vermillion Basin; the Yampa River west of Craig; South Shale Ridge and Bangs Canyon near Grand Junction; Pinyon Ridge near Rangely and Castle Peak near Eagle.


The next step, according to BLM wilderness program leader Eric Finstick, is to determine whether to amend each area's current land-use plan to protect wilderness values, such as scenic beauty and the opportunity for backcountry camping. The BLM begins accepting written public comments on the plans this month, he said, and will make a final decision by the end of 1998. Many of the areas currently have oil and gas leases which can be developed. But, Finstick said, no new leases will be issued "until we go through this process." Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., has called for a Senate hearing on the BLM action, acknowledging that several western Colorado counties accuse the agency of trying to create a wilderness area without enough public and industry input.


To register your opinion on the issue, contact the following field offices: For the Yampa and Vermillion roadless areas, write Little Snake Resource Area, 1280 Industrial Ave., Craig, CO 81625 (970/824-4441); for the Pinyon Ridge area, contact the White River Resource Area, 73544 Hwy. 64, Meeker, CO 81641 (970/878-3601); for Bangs Canyon and South Shale Ridge, contact the Grand Junction Resource Area, 2815 H Road, Grand Junction, CO 81506 (970/244-3000); and for the Castle Peak roadless area, contact the Glenwood Springs Resource Area, P.O. Box 1009, Glenwood Springs, CO 81602 (970/947-2806).





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