- Associated Press - Saturday, December 13, 2014

DENVER (AP) - More than 100,000 acres of wilderness in southwest Colorado soon could get an extra layer of protection under federal legislation that would also allow its use by backpackers, anglers and snowmobile riders.

The safeguards for the Hermosa Creek area near Durango are included as part of a broad defense bill that sailed through Congress. The measure now heads to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it.

The measure would set aside about 38,000 acres in the Hermosa Creek watershed as wilderness, a designation that prohibits roads, mining and mechanized vehicles. It also would allow an additional 71,000 acres for recreation and selective timber harvesting. Mining would be allowed on about 2,400 acres of the new preserve, the Denver Post reported Saturday (https://tinyurl.com/nrdxkpq ).

“The cooperation, compromise and hard work put into this bill over a number of years by a diverse group of Coloradans should serve as a model for Washington,” U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said in a statement.

A community debate on the area led to a compromise land-use proposal that became the basis of federal legislation introduced last year by Bennet and fellow Colorado lawmakers U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, a Republican.



Tipton had sought to amend the legislation to ensure snowmobile trails in the Molas Pass area of Hermosa Creek and kick-start the possibility of widespread mining throughout the region, threatening to derail the discussions.

The move triggered another round of negotiation between Bennet and Tipton, who finally agreed to new language that restricted mining in nearly all of the new preserve but provided a bit of flexibility in the routing of snowmobile trails.

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Information from: The Denver Post, https://www.denverpost.com

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