Mayor’s Minute Rosewood Update and Walk with the Mayor Event

Mayors Minute

Words by Laila Benitez / Community, Government, Mayor's Minute

Hello neighbors,

On May 31, a Special Town Council Meeting was adjourned to consider an amendment to extend the February 15, 2018 Standstill Agreement between Town of Mountain Village and Northlight Trust, the owners of Lots 126R and 152R. The Standstill Agreement required a new PUD application be submitted by June 15, 2018. Due to extensive public comment and other factors, the landowner requested that the deadline be extended by approximately 90 days to September 14, 2018, to consider the feedback they have received and further evaluate their Alternative Development Plan. Town Council approved the extension as the speed in which the application is filed is not as important as having plenty of opportunity for dialog, reflection, and refinement. You can review minutes from the meeting or watch the video at the town website.

More information about the history of this proposed project is available for review:

Walk with the Mayor – I’m looking forward to seeing you tomorrow for our first monthly walk and a chance to talk about current events and projects that interest you. The monthly event takes place from 10 to 11 a.m. and meets at the Heritage Plaza Fire Pit in Mountain Village.

Warm regards,

Laila Benitez
Mountain Village Mayor

Mountain Village Farm Share Community Incentive Program Adjusts Income Criteria and Extends Application Deadline to June 8

Fresh From The Farm Blog

Words by Bill Kight / Community

The Town of Mountain Village adjusts household income qualifications from 60% to 80% Area Median Income (AMI) and extends program application deadline to June 8, 2018. The town hopes to target more families and adjusted the income qualifications upwards in hopes of providing the farm share program to a broader range of community members. Mountain Village recently announced a community-wide income qualified ‘Farm Share to Community Incentive Pilot Program’ for up to 45 Mountain Village residents that meet the annual household income qualifications shown in the chart below. Eligibility will be on a first come first served basis for households that meet the requirements and have completed the necessary application by June 8, 2018.

 

Farm to Community Income Chart

“We are excited to offer our residents a community-supported agriculture program (CSA) directly linking our income qualified community members to local farmers,” said Planning and Development Services Director, Michelle Haynes. “This program is in alignment with many community goals. A community’s resilience depends upon implementing strategies that reduce reliance on non-renewable energy, develop local food sources and increase local transportation and energy security. The program will also educate our community members regarding the many local food sources available to us and provide low cost high nutrient food to our residents who may not otherwise have the income or time to participate in a similar program.”

The farm share program puts income qualified individuals and families at the centerpiece of the model, subsidizing farm shares based on income, and providing convenient during or after-work pick-up hours to distribute locally farmed, high-quality, sustainably grown, and affordable food and produce. Participating members can purchase “shares” of a farmer’s crop for the entire growing season (approximately nine weeks), at minimal cost.

To best serve our community members, understand the food habits and desires of our residents, and to enhance this pilot program, we have asked applicants and community members alike to provide their comments and input through an online survey by visiting townofmountainvillage.com/farm-to-community.

Haynes goes on to say, “Supporting local agriculture on this scale reduces the distance food is transported and incrementally lowers our carbon emissions. It also supports our local farms through the CSA model providing money in advance of a growing season for the purchase of seed and food planning. This program creates an important regional bridge and cooperative relationships that we hope will continue to grow.”

Participating farms and partners of the Farm to Community Program include Mountain Roots Produce based in Mancos, Colorado and F.R.E.S.H Food Hub, a community-run food co-op based in Norwood, Colorado. F.R.E.S.H Food Hub purchases food from local farms and producers such Indian Ridge Farm and Bakery, Buckhorn Gardens, Birdhouse Farm, Laid Back Ranch, South River Aquaponics, and many more small-scale producers on the western slope offering the best possible prices on wholesome, and healthy food in the region.

The F.R.E.S.H. Food Hub will have a presence at our Market on the Plaza. In addition to the Market on the Plaza being the primary CSA share pick up location, local produce and food items will be available for sale to residents and visitors.

For more information about our Farm to Community Incentive Program, please contact Planning and Development Services Director, Michelle Haynes at  (970) 239-4061, or email.

Mountain Village Sets Stage 1 Fire Restrictions to Begin Monday, May 21

Fire Restrictions Blog

Words by Bill Kight / Uncategorized

In conjunction with San Miguel County, Telluride Fire Protection District, Norwood Fire Protection District, and Egnar Fire Protection District, the Town of Mountain Village will be placed under Stage 1 Fire Restrictions effective Monday, May 21 at 6 a.m. due to exceptional drought conditions in the region.

Sheriff Bill Masters said that it is each citizen’s responsibility to do their part to prevent human-caused wildfires. “Fire danger is unusually high for our county and neighboring counties. Everyone needs to know and obey all fire restrictions.”

Under ordinance No. 02-04 § 2 of the Town of Mountain Village Municipal Code the following shall apply to all open fires within the incorporated limits of the Town, as further specified herein, but shall not apply to approved, permanent gas fireplace locations within a residential or commercial building:

  • Building, maintaining, attending or using any fire to burn trash, debris, or vegetation, any campfire, warming fire, and charcoal, paper or wood grills;
  • Smoking; except within an enclosed vehicle or building or an area at least three (3) feet in diameter cleared of all flammable material and all smoking debris shall be disposed of properly in an enclosed container;
  • Fireworks of any kind;
  • Operation of a chainsaw or a chop saw for cutting steel without USDA or SAE approved spark arresting devise property installed and in effective working order, and a chemical pressurized fire extinguisher of not less than eight (8) ounces capacity by weight, and one size zero (0) or larger round pointed shovel with an overall length of at least thirty-six (36) inches. The extinguisher shall be with the chainsaw operator. The shovel may be kept with the fueling supplies but readily available for quick use;
  • Welding or operating acetylene or any other torch with an open flame; except within an area that is barren or cleared of all flammable material at least ten (10) feet on all sides from the equipment;
  • Using explosives requiring fuses or blasting caps.

The following shall be considered exempt from such open fire restrictions:

  • Any federal, state, or local officer or member of an organized rescue or firefighting force in the performance of an official duty;
  • Any fires contained within liquid fueled or gas fueled stoves and fireplaces;
  • Campfires or bonfires required in religious ceremonies for which the Chief has granted a valid written permit in advance. (Ord. No. 02-04 § 3)

Permitted actions include:

  • Operating a stove, lantern, or other device fueled by liquid petroleum or bottled fuel equipped with a valve that allows the operator to turn the flame on and off.
  • Operating an internal or external combustion engine with a properly installed and maintained spark-arresting device in effective working order.

This Order shall remain in effect for 30 days unless adopted by Resolution by the Mountain Village Town Council.

Ouray, Montrose, and Delta counties are also being placed under Stage 1 Fire Restrictions effective Monday. Dolores and San Juan counties have had restrictions in place since May 1.

Telluride Fire Protection District Chief John Bennett said while the Telluride region is not currently at as high of a risk as the western part of San Miguel County, this is a prudent measure. “Our job is to protect our people and property in our district from fires, and this is one very important step to help reduce that risk.”

May Mayor’s Minute

Mayors Minute

Words by Laila Benitez / Communications, Government, Mayor's Minute

Hello neighbors,

Below are some Town Council meeting highlights from last month and some upcoming topics, but first please read a quick note about our water conservation measures. As always, I hope you can join us for tomorrow’s meeting or consider sharing your feedback with us about any of these matters.

  • Quick note: Due to extreme drought conditions throughout southwest Colorado, last month Town Council approved initiating water conservation measures beginning on May 1. As of April 9, San Miguel County 34% of average snowpack, and due to an unseasonably dry and warm spring the average snowpack was at 21% as of May 4. On May 10, our region was classified as “Exceptional Drought,” which is the highest level of drought classifications issued by the National Weather Service. To illustrate how extreme these conditions are, our neighboring county in Montrose was classified this month as a natural disaster area due to crop losses and damages caused by this drought. These extreme drought conditions impact not only us but our neighbors downstream in the Norwood area and beyond, who hold more senior water rights than ours.The last time our region was in a drought of this nature was in 2002. In 2002, a call was placed on the San Miguel River on June 21 and extended through October 31; however, the San Miguel River never dropped below 6.5 cubic feet per second at the Mahoney Street Bridge, which is a crucial threshold. However, this spring the in-stream river flows are running lower than they were in 2002, during the same period. When a call is placed on the San Miguel River it means junior water rights must cease diverting/using water in order to supply senior water rights in the Norwood area, which impacts the town’s ability to use its water supply fully. While the town has good water rights that are not junior to many other water users, there are water rights on the San Miguel River that are senior to the town’s rights.Per the town’s water rights and in-stream flow requirements, should the San Miguel River flow drop below 6.5 cubic feet per second at the Mahoney Street Bridge, further water restrictions will be necessary and required. The town’s current water restrictions are geared towards avoiding a call on the river from neighbors with senior water rights. Also, if the region experiences a significant increase in moisture the town may rescind its water conservation efforts. We appreciate your patience, as this is a very real issue the town is facing, and we will continue to keep you up-to-date as the situation evolves.

April 26 Agenda Topics

  • After months of direct negotiation between principal-designated representatives from Lot 161C-R, The Ridge HOA, The Ridge Club, some of The Ridge owners, and the town, Town Council approved a term sheet regarding settlement of the 161C-R and Ridge at Telluride ongoing litigation.
  • Town Council approved the use of action minutes as the official record of all Town Council meetings. Action minutes will be compromised of an objective record of motions, votes, and names of speakers during public comment and/or public hearings without a summary of some discussions, as was previously found in narrative minutes. The town will continue to record and retain all Town Council meetings via video and audio.
  • We approved the following Green Team Committee initiatives: calculation of an updated Town of Mountain Village Greenhouse Gas Inventory, development of a Compost Incentive Program, and launch of a Farm to Community Pilot Program.
  • The Town Hall and Village Center Subarea Committee provided their monthly update. The Village Center Subarea Committee is currently made up of two members each from the town, Telluride Mountain Village Owner’s Association (TMVOA), and Telluride Ski & Golf (TSG); the committee updated Council that they will be adding one lodging and one merchant member to their team, as well.
  • Town Council discussed Trails Master Plan, which is focused on reviewing trails in and around the existing town network, evaluating the feasibility of proposed trails identified in the Mountain Village Comprehensive Plan, and providing further recommendations for future trails based on the community’s vision and goals.

If you would like more specifics about any of these topics, you can review minutes from the meeting or watch the video at the town website.

May 17 Agenda Topics

  • We will receive an update on the Telluride Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant Master Plan (TRWWTP) regarding the ongoing and future major upgrades to the plant located at Lawson Hill. The two primary goals of the plan are upgrading facilities to comply with new federal treatment and outflow standards and increasing capacity to manage current and future demand.
  • Over the years, Town Council has adopted a public comment policy through the Rules of Conduct of Public Meetings Policy but has not strictly followed nor publicized this public comment policy. This worksession will provide an opportunity for us all to discuss best practices in adopting and implementing an open, fair, and robust  public comment policy.
  • As part of our annual budgeting process, we will have a worksession to help establish and refine the budget goals for projects, programs, and infrastructure in 2019. The Finance Committee and town staff will use this direction as they draft the 2019 budget.
  • Town Council will hear on first reading a Community Development Code (CDC) amendment regarding Village Center roofing requirements. Due to the unavailability of the original burnt sienna concrete tiles, the proposed amendment would allow for more permitted materials in the Village Center.
  • Lastly, the Town Hall and Village Center Subarea Committee will be providing their monthly update and Marketing Telluride Inc (MTI) will present their quarterly report.

A full agenda has been posted on our website; we welcome your input and hope to see you at the meeting.

Reminder: Beginning June 5, I will be hosting monthly walks on the first Tuesday of every month. I’m looking forward to this opportunity for us to talk about current events and projects in our community. Stay tuned for more info.

Warm regards,

Laila Benitez
Mountain Village Mayor

Telluride Express Presents the 20th Annual Sunset Concert Series in Mountain Village, Colorado

Sunset Concert Series 20th Anniversary Blog

Words by Bill Kight / Community, Event

The Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association (TMVOA) is pleased to announce the lineup for the 20th Annual Sunset Concert Series held in Mountain Village, Colorado. One of the most anticipated events of the summer celebrates its 20th year in Telluride bringing music and entertainment to the San Juan Mountains.

The Summer Concert Series consists of nine shows that take place on the lawn near Lift 1 in the Sunset Plaza. The concerts start at 6 p.m., and as in prior years, the concerts are free and are family and pet-friendly. Aptly named because of its west-facing orientation resulting in excellent sun exposure and fantastic sunset views, the Sunset Plaza in Mountain Village sets the stage for one of the most spectacular music settings in the country. The Series kicks off June 27 and runs through August 15.

“TMVOA is proud to bring another summer season of music to Mountain Village,” said Anton Benitez, TMVOA executive director. “We look forward to having our members, guests and visitors come together for this weekly community event that has become one of the great summer traditions in the region.”

The 2018 Sunset Concert Series lineup is as follows:

“Once again, we are providing a diverse line-up with a variety that will be fun for everyone,” said Teddy Errico, Producer of the music series. “All bands are hot on social media and very talented.”

The Sunset Concert Series is provided to the public free of charge by TMVOA, The Telluride Society for Music and presenting sponsor, Telluride Express. Supporting sponsors include by SuttonAlpine Bank, Madeline Hotel and Residences, Rodney Strong Vineyards, KOTO FM Radio, Telluride Resort Lodging, Telluride Ski & Golf, the Town of Mountain Village, The Peaks Resort & Spa, and The Market at Mountain Village. The event is rain or shine.

Learn more about the Sunset Concert Series and the Red, White & Blues concert by visiting tmvoa.org and facebook.com/sunsetconcertseries.

COMMON CONSUMPTION AREA
For the Sunset Concert Series, the Common Consumption Area is in effect. The Common Consumption Area will allow people to purchase alcoholic beverages from participating licensed establishments attached to the Common Consumption Area and move freely with beverages within the defined boundary of the concert area. Only alcohol from the participating establishments is permitted in the Common Consumption area.

CONNECT:

Connect with the Sunset Concert Series on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Mountain Village to Provide Farm Share Community Incentive Program

Fresh From The Farm Blog

Words by Special Contributor / Community

The Town of Mountain Village is excited to announce a community-wide income qualified ‘Farm Share to Community Incentive Pilot Program.’ Grown out of the newly formed Mountain Village Green Team Committee, and approved at the April Town Council meeting, up to 45 Mountain Village residents that meet the annual household income qualifications can apply to the program. Eligibility will be on a first come first served basis for households that meet the requirements and have completed the necessary application by June 1, 2018.

“We are excited to offer our residents a community-supported agriculture program (CSA) directly linking our income qualified community members to local farmers,” said Planning and Development Services Director, Michelle Haynes. “This program is in alignment with many community goals. A community’s resilience depends upon implementing strategies that reduce reliance on non-renewable energy, develop local food sources and increase local transportation and energy security. The program will also educate our community members regarding the many local food sources available to us and provide low cost high nutrient food to our residents who may not otherwise have the income or time to participate in a similar program.”

The farm share program puts income qualified individuals and families at the centerpiece of the model, subsidizing farm shares based on income, and providing convenient during or after-work pick-up hours to distribute locally farmed, high-quality, sustainably grown, and affordable food and produce. Participating members can purchase “shares” of a farmer’s crop for the entire growing season (approximately nine weeks), at minimal cost.

To best serve our community members, understand the food habits and desires of our residents, and to enhance this pilot program, we have asked applicants and community members alike to provide their comments and input through an online survey by visiting townofmountainvillage.com/farm-to-community.

Haynes goes on to say, “Supporting local agriculture on this scale reduces the distance food is transported and incrementally lowers our carbon emissions. It also supports our local farms through the CSA model providing money in advance of a growing season for the purchase of seed and food planning. This program creates an important regional bridge and cooperative relationships that we hope will continue to grow.”

Participating farms and partners of the Farm to Community Program include Mountain Roots Produce based in Mancos, Colorado and F.R.E.S.H Food Hub, a community-run food co-op based in Norwood, Colorado. F.R.E.S.H Food Hub purchases food from local farms and producers such Indian Ridge Farm and Bakery, Buckhorn Gardens, Birdhouse Farm, Laid Back Ranch, South River Aquaponics, and many more small-scale producers on the western slope offering the best possible prices on wholesome, and healthy food in the region.

The F.R.E.S.H. Food Hub will have a presence at our Market on the Plaza. In addition to the Market on the Plaza being the primary CSA share pick up location, local produce and food items will be available for sale to residents and visitors.
For more information about our Farm to Community Incentive Program, please contact Planning and Development Services Director, Michelle Haynes at  (970) 239-4061, or email.

Mayor’s Minute Rosewood/Northlight Open House, Thursday, May 10 at 1 p.m.

Mayors Minute

Words by Laila Benitez / Community, Mayor's Minute

Hello neighbors,

At the February 15 Town Council Meeting, Council voted unanimously to approve a Standstill Agreement with Northlight, the owners of Lots 126R and 152R (historically referred to as “Rosewood”). Before submitting a new planned unit development (PUD) application, Northlight is required to hold two public open house and discussion forums to obtain community feedback. The first public open house meeting was held March 28 and the second public open house meeting will be held this Thursday, May 10, from 1–3 p.m. at Mountain Village Town Hall.

The meeting will be live-streamed and available for viewing afterward.

Meeting Materials are available for review:

Northlight will also be holding a third public meeting this summer, date yet to be announced. Below is a tentative outline of the next steps in the PUD process:

  • May 10        Second public meeting hosted by Northlight
  • June 15       New PUD application deadline per Standstill Agreement
  • June/July     Conceptual Worksession with DRB & Town Council for outline PUD Application
  • July             Third public meeting hosted by Northlight
  • August        Outline PUD to be presented to DRB & Town Council
  • October      Final outline PUD application & review by Town Council

Once the town receives a new PUD application, we will send out a formal outline of the timeline and steps required per the town’s PUD process.

Please email or call me with any specific questions or concerns you may have.

Warm regards,

Laila Benitez
Mountain Village Mayor

Mountain Village Water Restrictions in Effect May 1, 2018

Water Conservation

Words by Bill Kight / Community, Environment, Public Works

Beginning May 1, 2018, Town of Mountain Village will implement a Summer Water Conservation Resident Program in anticipation of a dry season restricting outside irrigation. Conservation program efforts will be in effect for the Town of Mountain Village, Ski Ranches, Elk Run and Skyfield.

Based on recent reports from the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service and National Water and Climate Center (USDA/NRCS)Snow and Precipitation Update Report (Snotel), and Bikis Water Consultants Division of SGM, the Town is being proactive in initiating this year’s restrictions in May in an attempt to conserve water from the start of irrigation season rather than waiting until June when we could potentially be in a more sensitive drought situation.

Water Conservation program Schedule:

Effective May 1, 2018: 

  • All properties north of Mountain Village Boulevard and Elk Run may water their landscaping on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays ONLY. Irrigation clocks must be set to run at a level of 70-75% of regular water consumption for the three days a week you are allowed to water. Irrigating hours will be either before 10 a.m. or after 5 p.m.
  • All properties south of Mountain Village Boulevard, plus the Ski Ranches and Skyfield, may water their landscaping on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays ONLY. Irrigation clocks must be set to run at a level of 70-75% of regular water consumption for the three days a week you are allowed to water. Irrigating hours will be either before 10 a.m. or after 5 p.m.
  • All exterior water features must be turned off during this conservation effort.
  • Due to potential water contamination “cross-connection” occurrences, NO trucked in water will be allowed to be hooked up to existing irrigation systems.

Effective June 1, 2018: 

  • All properties north of Mountain Village Blvd and Elk Run residents may water their landscaping on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays ONLY. Irrigation clocks must be set to run at a level of 70-75% of regular water consumption for the three days a week you are allowed to water. Irrigating hours will be either before 8 a.m. or after 7 p.m.
  • All properties south of Mountain Village Blvd, plus the Ski Ranches and Skyfield, may water their landscaping on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays ONLY. Irrigation clocks must be set to run at a level of 70-75% of regular water consumption for the three days a week you are allowed to water. Irrigating hours will be either before 8 a.m. or after 7 p.m.
  • All exterior water features must be turned off during this conservation effort.
  • Due to potential water contamination “cross-connection” occurrences, NO trucked in water will be allowed to be hooked up to existing irrigation systems.

New Landscaping:

Effective May 1, 2018, because of the need for new landscaping to receive additional watering to become established, landscaping installed before spring of 2017 and future landscaping projects may apply for additional irrigation permissions by permit. All permit applications which include landscaping additions or changes shall be reviewed on a case by case basis by contacting Mountain Village Senior Planner Dave Bangert by email or (970) 369-8203.

Please be aware that if the San Miguel River goes under administration (on call), further water restrictions may be necessary as the Town follows its augmentation requirements. If the weather conditions do not cooperate, this could result in a ban on all outside watering from the Town’s water system. On the other hand, if the region does see a significant increase in moisture the Town may retract its water conservation efforts.

For questions regarding the Town of Mountain Village Water Conservation Program, please contact Public Works Director, Finn Kjome at  (970) 369-8206.

April Mayor’s Minute

Mayors Minute

Words by Laila Benitez / Government, Mayor's Minute

Hello neighbors,

Below are some Town Council meeting highlights from last month and some upcoming topics. As always, I hope you can join us for tomorrow’s meeting or consider sharing your feedback with us about any of these matters.

March 15 Meeting Highlights

If you would like more specifics about any of these topics, you can review minutes from the meeting or watch the video at the town website.

April 26 Agenda Topics

  • Town Council will consider a term sheet regarding settlement of the 161C-R and Ridge at Telluride litigation. This is the result of months of direct negotiation between principal designated representatives from Lot 161C-R, The Ridge HOA, The Ridge Club, some of The Ridge owners, and the town.
  • We will consider approving the use of action minutes rather than narrative minutes as the official record of all meetings of the Town Council. Action minutes would be compromised of only an objective record of motions, votes, and names of speakers during public comment and/or public hearings without a summary of some discussions, as found in narrative minutes. The town would continue to record all Town Council meetings via video and audio, which we would maintain as we do now.
  • As we all noted this winter, it has been an extremely dry year and these arid conditions may continue throughout the summer. To address the situation proactively, Town Council will discuss drought planning tactics such as initiating water restrictions in May, in an attempt to conserve water from the start of irrigation season rather than waiting until June when we could potentially be in a more sensitive drought situation.
  • We will hear an update on the Meadows Improvement Plan.
  • The Green Team Committee will present proposals for three projects: production of an updated Town of Mountain Village (TMV) Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory; consideration of a Compost Incentive Program; and consideration of an income-qualified Farm to Community Pilot Program.
  • The Town Hall and Village Center Subarea Committee will provide an update.
  • Town Council will review a Trails Master Plan RFP (Request for Proposals) seeking to develop a comprehensive trails plan for the town, and the immediate surrounding area, according to the Open Space and Recreation Vision outlined in the Mountain Village Comprehensive Plan. The plan will look at trails in and around the existing town network, evaluate the feasibility of proposed trails identified in the Comprehensive Plan, and provide further recommendations for future trails based on the community’s vision and goals.

A full agenda has been posted on our website; we welcome your input and hope to see you at the meeting.

Warm regards,

Laila Benitez
Mountain Village Mayor

Bennet Introduces Protections for San Juan Mountains

Bill to Protect San Juan Mountains Blog

Words by Special Contributor / Community, Environment

Article from The Durango Herald: U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet introduced a bill Thursday that would designate nearly 61,000 acres of the San Juan Mountains as wilderness, extending the strictest federal conservation protections to some of the range’s most prominent peaks.

“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 grand-kids,” Bennet, a Democrat, said in a news release.

The San Juan Wilderness Act expands or designates 11 areas within and surrounding the San Juan National Forest as wilderness or special management areas. Also included is a 6,500-acre mineral withdrawal at Naturita Canyon, a designation that would prevent future mining in the area.

Protections under Bennet’s bill designate some of the most prominent peaks in the area as wilderness areas, including two Fourteeners – Mount Sneffels and Wilson Peak.

Kelsey Mix, communication director for U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, said, while vetting the latest version of the bill, Tipton’s office “determined there is still not broad consensus.”

“The Colorado River District has raised concerns with the private property and water rights within at least one of the proposed expansions. Additionally, the Colorado Snowmobile Association has significant concerns,” Mix said in an email.

The expansion of the wilderness areas worries some outdoor recreational groups, such as the Colorado Snowmobile Association. Expansion of the wilderness would close many trails they ride on as well as access points to cross to other trails.

Scott Jones, president of the Colorado Snowmobile Association, said, “The problem is the way some of these boundaries are laid out. It would cut access to other areas.”

 

Bennet worked closely with the San Miguel, San Juan and Ouray county commissioners in formulating the legislation, the release said. Bennet has been pushing this legislation since he came to the Senate in 2009 and closely consulted local leadership.

“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 lands that help drive our recreation economy,” said San Juan County Commissioner Pete McKay.

A version of the bill was introduced in 2013 by then-Colorado Sen. Mark Udall. The bill passed with bipartisan support out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that year, but the Senate never brought it to the floor for a vote.

A wilderness designation is the federal government highest level of protection for public lands. According to the Wilderness Society, about one-third of the public lands receive permanent protections as wilderness, parks, refuges or other designations. There are 109 million acres of designated wilderness area in the United States.

Bennet’s legislation received support of various environmental groups, including the Wilderness Society.

“The San Juan Wilderness Act works to strike a balance between conservation, recreation, and smarter energy development in the future,” said Jeff Widen, senior regional conservation representative at the Wilderness Society, in a statement.

Telluride Ski Resort, a premier destination in the San Juan National Forest, also cheered the introduction of the legislation.

“The spectacularly rugged and pristine San Juan Mountains are an American treasure that are worthy of preservation,” Telluride CEO Bill Jensen said in a statement. “A public lands designation in the San Juan Wilderness bill will protect the environment while ensuring recreational access that is core to the regional economy.”

If passed through both chambers of Congress and signed by the president, the San Juan wilderness designation will prohibit additional roads and commercial enterprises from developing the area, according the National Park Service. However, the Wilderness Act allows people to fight fires, control insect infestation and provide for human safety, but respects private property rights.

Staff members for Republican Sen. Cory Gardner didn’t immediately respond to inquiries about the legislation.

Andrew Eversden is an intern for The Durango Herald and a student at American University in Washington, D.C.An earlier version of this story erred in saying a version of the San Juan Wilderness Act passed unanimously out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee in 2013. It passed with bipartisan support, but not unanimously.

Thank you to the Durango Herald for the article with photograph of The Ice Lakes area in the San Juan Mountains to be included in nearly 61,000 acres of the San Juan Mountains that would gain special federal conservation protections under the 2018 San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act. Photo credit: Jason Hatfield.

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