On Wednesday, the House of Representatives approved legislation to protect nearly 1.4 million acres of wilderness in Colorado, Washington, and California, making this the largest wilderness protection to pass in a decade. The legislation was proposed by Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette, who had this to say:
“We have been working on this legislation for more than 20 years. The areas that will be protected under this bill are some of the most beautiful and pristine landscapes that our country has to offer. And by officially designating them as wilderness, as this bill does, we will finally be providing them the permanent protection they deserve.”
Protecting areas as wilderness prevent them from being used for logging, mining, drilling, road building, or any other type of development on that land. Instead, the land will be preserved for the publics’ enjoyment, being used for things like hiking, horseback riding, rafting, kayaking, hunting, fishing, camping, or some other popular form of outdoor recreation.
For Colorado, this could mean more growth for an already booming tourism economy. Colorado’s outdoor recreation industry generates $28 billion in consumer spending every year according to the Colorado Office of Economic Development and gives over 229,000 people jobs.
Previous land-protection bills have focused on Colorado’s high-elevation areas, but DeGette’s legislation seeks to protect more of Colorado’s mid-elevation ecosystems. These lands serve as critical habitats for a variety of plants and wildlife and are often used by Coloradans and tourists for a wide range of outdoor recreation activities. The legislation will protect 36 unique areas across the state including the Handies Peak, Dolores River Canyon, and Little Bookcliffs. More information on the areas to be protected in Colorado is available here.