Wilderness

San_JuansIn 1964 Congress passed the Wilderness Act to protect a small segment of our most unique and cherished public lands in their original character. Currently about 2% of public lands in the lower 48 are classified as wilderness. These areas are free of road building, dams, permanent structures, logging, motorized vehicles, new mining claims and mineral leasing. Hunting, fishing and grazing is permitted in wilderness.

 

Our work

Land Stewards has logged countless miles in recent years visiting remote ranches and farms across Colorado and New Mexico to discuss wilderness policy with landowners. We are listening to and learning from the experiences and concerns of ranchers and farmers, and given that Wilderness policy ensures multiple uses such as sustainable grazing, hunting, fishing and outfitting, it is no wonder that many of these folks are supportive of Wilderness. Here’s a small sample of what ranchers and farmers are saying about Wilderness policy:

"It is a huge relief to be able to graze in the Apache Kid and San Mateo Wilderness areas, where motorized vehicles are not allowed and the original character of the landscape has been preserved. This benefits not only sustainable grazing, but hunting, fishing and other multiple uses as well," rancher, Dusty, New Mexico.
"The only problem with wilderness is that there’s not enough of it," rancher, San Luis Valley, Colorado.
"As a rancher and wildlife outfitter, I understand first-hand how protecting our natural heritage requires responsible stewardship - on my own land and on our public lands. Protecting our most unique and threatened areas as wilderness can serve not only to protect these natural resources but also to maintain traditional uses such as ranching, hunting and fishing," rancher, San Luis Valley, Colorado
"Protecting our most unique and threatened areas as wilderness can serve not only to protect these natural resources for future generations but can also serve to maintain traditional uses such as grazing," rancher, Winston, New Mexico.
"In 1993, the national forest we continue to run cattle on became one of the only sub-alpine wilderness areas in Colorado, becoming the Sarvis Creek Wilderness Area. Wilderness has not only protected this area from unsustainable development which would have forever changed the character and usage of Sarvis Creek, but has also helped us raise our cattle in a safer, more natural environment, free of motorized vehicles, bicycles, and the like," rancher, Phippsburg, Colorado.

Ranchers tip their hat for Wilderness

In 2010, ranchers and farmers across Colorado literally tipped their hats for Wilderness (password is 'wilderness'), thanking Colorado Congressman John Salazar for his work on crafting additional Wilderness areas in Colorado. If passed, the San Juan Wilderness bill would protect some 61,600 acres of unique alpine forests in San Miguel, San Juan and Ouray Counties. All three Colorado county commissions support the wilderness bill, which would continue to support multiple uses such as hiking, camping, grazing, hunting, and horseback riding.

Tackling misconceptions

 One local coalition of businesses, politicians and former government wilderness managers have put together a list of persistent myths regarding wilderness policy and grazing. This group, the Dona Ana County Wilderness Coalition, has also included a list of the benefits to ranchers provided by Wilderness and a list of Wilderness grazing guidelines.