Bennet Introduces Protections for San Juan Mountains

San Miguel County Commissioner Joins Bennet in Washington to Introduce Bill

Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, joined by San Miguel County Commissioner Hilary Cooper, today introduced the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act to protect approximately 61,000 acres of land located in the heart of the San Juan Mountains in Southwest Colorado. The bill would designate some of the state’s most iconic peaks as wilderness areas, including two fourteeners: Mount Sneffels and Wilson Peak.

“We must do our part in Washington to push this bill across the finish line,” Bennet said. “Not only are these iconic landscapes vital to outdoor recreation and local economies, but they also stand as a symbol of our public lands legacy in Colorado—a legacy we must pass onto our kids and grandkids. I’m grateful to all of the county commissioners and leaders who have tirelessly worked to advance this effort for over a decade, and I’m particularly grateful to Commissioner Hilary Cooper, who has played an instrumental role in shaping the legislation we introduced today.”

Click HERE for sound bites and b-roll of Bennet and Cooper, with her daughter Maia, discussing the significance of the bill and walking it to the Capitol for introduction.

Bill Background

This legislation is the result of years of collaboration among San Miguel, San Juan, and Ouray Counties. Originally introduced in 2009, the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act passed the House Natural Resources Committee unanimously in 2010 and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in 2013.

Since 2009, Bennet has worked closely with local leaders in Southwest Colorado to update and advance the bill in the Senate. Last month, he joined supporters in Ouray County to renew their efforts to pass the legislation. Bennet looks forward to engaging with all stakeholders and interested parties to hear any additional input on the legislation.


Bill Support

“The San Juan Mountains Wilderness Bill is a culmination of citizens and stakeholders coming together and crafting a true community driven broadly supported piece of legislation,” said San Miguel County Commissioner Hilary Cooper. “I am proud of our Counties coming together to support this ten year effort.”

“San Juan County has strongly supported the San Juan Wilderness Act for over a decade after we worked in our community with all local stakeholders to help craft a bill that has widespread support and represents a balanced approach to protecting the public land that help drive our recreation economy,” said San Juan County Commissioner Pete McKay. “We thank Senator Bennet for continuing to work on our behalf to help pass this crucial legislation that will help protect the alpine peaks that make the San Juan Mountains such a unique and beautiful part of Colorado.” 

“I grew up in and around the wild lands to be protected by the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act, and firmly believe that Wilderness teaches us humility, wonder, respect, gratitude, and patience,” said Ouray County Commissioner Ben Tisdel. “The San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act is a home-grown idea that initiated within the three counties it will affect. For over twelve years the local governments have embraced the idea of placing higher protections on some of the magnificent lands that drive our economies. These local communities are the most familiar with current and historic uses, and the established use rights associated within the proposed wilderness. Strong local support for expanded wilderness designation has not wavered throughout these twelve years. Local support has not only been sustained, but has increased over these years, and our local leaders who are actively involved in mining also support this designation. Ouray County stands firm in its support for this Act, and is thankful to its past, current, and future congressional delegations for listening and being responsive to our input, and for taking this Act across the finish line.  We thank Senator Bennet for his work on this bill and for introducing it in the Senate.”

The towns of Telluride, Mountain Village, Silverton, Ophir, and Ridgway also support the bill.