Rocky Mountain NP May Get Wilderness Protection

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Rocky Mountain National Park is already a, um, national park, but some believe it deserves even more protection. That's why Colorado senators Ken Salazar, a Democrat and Wayne Udall, a Republican, have crossed party lines to help pass legislation that would designate 249,339 acres in the park and surrounding areas as wilderness.

But wait, you might ask, isn't Rocky Mountain National Park already a wilderness by virtue of its park designation? Not exactly: Adding wilderness designation adds an extra legal layer of protection, as any further construction, roads, or development will be prohibited in an effort to keep the area as pristine as possible. In Rocky's case, this will protect 95 percent of the park from development in perpetuity.

Wilderness designation was first proposed during the Nixon administration but got quashed because of political infighting. Now park officials and politicians alike think the bill has an excellent chance of getting passed by the senate.

"This is as far as it has gotten in 34 years," said Vaughn Baker, superintendent of Rocky Mountain National Park. "We think it's a pretty solid bill."

The bill was approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and will go before the Senate at large later this year.

— Ted Alvarez

Wilderness status closer for RMNP (Ft. Collins Coloradoan)