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Public Papers - 1993 - January

Letter to Congressional Leaders Transmitting Proposed Legislation on Colorado Public Lands Wilderness Designation

1993-01-07

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

I am pleased to submit for congressional consideration and passage the ``Colorado Public Lands Wilderness Act''.

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), (43 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.), directs the Secretary of the Interior to review the wilderness potential of the public lands.

The review of the areas identified in Colorado began immediately after the enactment of FLPMA and has now been completed. Approximately 771,822 acres of public lands in 54 areas in Colorado met the minimum wilderness criteria and were designated as wilderness study areas (WSAs). These WSAs were studied and analyzed during the review process and the results documented in eight environmental impact statements and five instant study area reports. The wilderness studies and reviews have now been completed except for four areas that are contiguous to the Sangre de Cristo Study Area administered by the U.S. Forest Service and were studied under section 202 of FLPMA. They will remain under wilderness review pending resolution of the Sangre de Cristo study.

Based on the studies and reviews of the WSAs, the Secretary of the Interior recommends that all or part of 20 of the WSAs, totaling 395,792 acres of public lands, be designated as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

I concur with the Secretary of the Interior's recommendations and am pleased to recommend designation of the 18 areas (395,792 acres) identified in the enclosed bill as additions to the National Wilderness Preservation System.

The proposed additions represent the diversity of wilderness values in the State of Colorado. These range from the 14,000-foot Redcloud Peak to the canyons of the Dolores, Gunnison, and Yampa Rivers, to the 13 natural arches of the Black Ridge Canyons. These areas span a wide variety of Colorado landforms, ecosystems, and other natural systems and features. Their inclusion in the wilderness system will improve the geographic distribution of wilderness areas in Colorado, and will complement existing areas of congressionally designated wilderness. They will provide new and outstanding opportunities for solitude and unconfined recreation.

The enclosed draft legislation provides that designation as wilderness shall not constitute a reservation of water or water rights for wilderness purposes. This is consistent with the fact that the Congress did not establish a Federal reserved water right for wilderness purposes. The Administration has established the policy that, where it is necessary to obtain water rights for wilderness purposes in a specific wilderness area, water rights would be sought from the State by filing under State water laws. Furthermore, it is the policy of the Administration that the designation of wilderness areas should not interfere with the use of water rights, State water administration, or the use of a State's interstate water allocation.

The draft legislation also provides for access to wilderness areas by Indian people for traditional cultural and religious purposes. Access by the general public may be limited in order to protect the privacy of religious cultural activities taking place in specific wilderness areas. In addition, to the fullest extent practicable, the Department of the Interior will coordinate with the Department of Defense to minimize the impact of any overflights during these religious cultural activities.

I further concur with the Secretary of the Interior that all or part of 46 of the WSAs encompassing 376,030 acres are not suitable for preservation as wilderness.

Also enclosed are a letter and report from the Secretary of the Interior concerning the WSAs discussed above and a section-by-section analysis of the draft legislation. I urge the Congress to act expeditiously and favorably on the proposed legislation so that the natural resources of these WSAs in Colorado may be protected and preserved.

Sincerely,

George Bush

Note: Identical letters were sent to Thomas S. Foley, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Dan Quayle, President of the Senate.

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