Daily Sentinel: Boebert Backs Dolores River Canyon Conservation Bill

In a promising step toward possible new protections for Dolores River Canyon, U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Silt, and other Colorado Republicans in Congress are providing support for a measure that would create new conservation designations in three western Colorado counties.

Boebert’s office announced Tuesday she is introducing an identical House of Representatives companion bill to the bipartisan Dolores River National Conservation Area and Special Management Area Act. That measure was introduced in the Senate last month by U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, both Colorado Democrats. It would protect more than 68,000 acres in Dolores, Montezuma and San Miguel counties as a national conservation area in the case of Bureau of Land Management land, and a special management area on national forest lands.

According to the news release, it also would protect private property rights. Her measure is cosponsored in the House by Reps. Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn, the two other Colorado Republicans in Congress.

The measure is the result of many years of local discussion, was specifically requested by the three counties and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and has support from conservation groups and from grazing permit holders in the canyon. Boebert’s decision to back the measure and introduce a companion bill especially boosts its chances of passage in Congress because the land in question is in her district. In contrast, she opposes the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, a conservation bill with proposed new protections for some 400,000 acres in the state, much of that acreage in her district.

Compromise language in the Dolores River bill would remove the segment of the river covered by the legislation from consideration as a Wild and Scenic River. According to Bennet’s Senate office website, any Wild and Scenic River designation includes a new federal reserved water right for any unallocated water in the designated segment, which in the case of the Dolores River raised concerns among water and agricultural interests about possible impacts on private water rights.

Boebert, in her news release, described the bill as a locally driven, bipartisan compromise measure “that threads the needle.”

She said the bill “protects the Dolores River Corridor, conserves wildlife, ensures scenic public lands for future generations, while still protecting private water and private property rights. This well-crafted legislation ensures traditional uses like grazing, uranium mining and other mineral extraction, and motorized-vehicle use will continue. Importantly, this bill prevents a wild and scenic river designation in perpetuity, something that would negatively impact all the aforementioned uses. The hard work of everyone who came to the table to make this happen should be applauded.”

Asked for comment on Boebert’s bill, and whether her support for the measure came as a surprise, Bennet’s office said in an emailed statement, “Over the last several months, our office has discussed the bill with Congresswoman Boebert’s office and briefed them on its progress as Senator Bennet concluded the legislative drafting with the counties. Senator Bennet worked for over a decade with a diverse, bipartisan coalition in Southwest Colorado to produce this bill to protect the Dolores River Canyon and he looks forward to it moving through Congress.”

Scott Braden, director of the Colorado Wildlands Project, said Tuesday, “We think it’s great that Representative Boebert is finally listening to her constituents who overwhelmingly support public lands and water conservation.”

Source: The Daily Sentinel

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