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Reader: Protect the San Juans 

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I've been privileged to hunt elk and turkeys in the high and wild San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado for over a decade now. And although the San Juans are renowned for their wild and remote character, critical wildlife habitat is disappearing every day. Wildlife corridors, winter range and watersheds are being fragmented by development, and this takes a huge toll on the wildlife that depends on these places.

That's why I am asking Sen. Cory Gardner to co-sponsor the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act. Sen. Michael Bennet introduced this bill to protect approximately 61,000 acres of land located in the heart of the San Juans. The bill would designate some of the state's most iconic peaks as wilderness areas, including two fourteeners: Mount Sneffels and Wilson Peak.

This legislation is the result of years of collaboration among San Miguel, San Juan and Ouray Counties. "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. The towns of Telluride, Mountain Village, Silverton, Ophir and Ridgway all support the bill.

Sportsmen and women benefit from the fish and wildlife habitat protections provided by the bill. We know that once wild habitat is developed, it is very difficult (if not impossible) to return it to its natural state, and wilderness is the gold standard for wildlife habitat and backcountry hunting/angling grounds.

We applaud Sen. Bennet for his ongoing efforts to conserve this landscape. His bill enjoys widespread support from residents, businesses, outfitters, ranchers and county commissioners in the three counties. We urge Sen. Gardner to co-sponsor this common-sense legislation and for Congress to pass this bill.

— David Lien, Chairman, Colorado BackcountryHunters & Anglers

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