McInnis, Allard say locals must be involved

Congresswoman introduces another bill to turn Northwest Colorado land into wilderness

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) Two Republican lawmakers say they will support only a bottom-up approach to designating more wilderness areas and will fight legislation that doesn't involve people directly affected.

That was the message from Sen. Wayne Allard and Rep. Scott McInnis to Club 20 members Saturday.

Club 20 is a lobbying organization for Western Slope businesses, elected officials and residents. McInnis and Allard told the group that the Western Slope, not the federal government, should decide the fate of a bill by their colleague, Congresswoman Diana DeGette, D-Colo.

DeGette said Friday she is reviving her proposal to set aside an additional 1.35 million acres of public land in Colorado as wilderness. Most of the 48 parcels are on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property and are in the western part of the state.

DeGette said she will consider comments from area residents. The lobbying group Colorado Counties Inc. launched a county-by-county review of the sites DeGette has proposed for wilderness classification.

McInnis opposed DeGette's previous bill last year, and likely will fight the new one unless locals endorse the sites, said Josh Penry, the congressman's spokesman.

Most of the proposed wilderness is in McInnis' district. The Republican from Grand Junction also is a member of the House Resources Committee, which would consider the legislation.

Penry predicted DeGette's legislation wouldn't pass in Congress. ''The bill's dead on arrival,'' he said.

McInnis said DeGette's bill has been forced on area residents from the federal level and contended the proposal would treat different kinds of land the same way.

''Not every piece of government land should be designated for wilderness,'' McInnis said.

He and Allard said all the parties would have to work as a team before they back the legislation.

''Before I move forward on any of this, I want to make sure there's a good local consensus that's been established out there,'' Allard said.

That kind of consensus was built for creation of the Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Spanish Peaks Wilderness, McInnis said.

DeGette's spokesman, Ed Santana, downplayed Penry's assertion that the wilderness bill has no chance.

''I think we're in a process here and the process is getting much better and she's going to continue to have an ongoing dialogue with (McInnis) on this thing,'' Santana said.

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