National Conservation Area Legislation Introduced for the Dolores River

July 15, 2022

Contact: Mike Fiebig, mfiebig@americanrivers.org

Senator Michael Bennet Introduced the Legislation which would protect 76 river miles and 74,006 acres of Public Lands Surrounding the Dolores River

Dolores, CO – After nearly 20 years of collaborative work, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet introduced the Dolores River National Conservation Area and Special Management Area Act on Thursday this week. Colorado Senator John Hickenlooper co-sponsored the bill. The Act was introduced at the behest of Dolores, Montezuma, and San Miguel counties, as well as the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, agricultural producers, fish and wildlife managers, and conservation and recreation organizations. The resulting legislation is bi-partisan and consensus-based, establishing a new National Conservation Area and Special Management Area that will protect wildlife, cultural and historical resources, and existing uses of the land while enhancing local economies well into the future.

The Dolores River Canyon is an essential lifeline to the landscape and culture of western Colorado. It’s renowned for its scenic beauty, wildlife habitat, geological formations, and cultural and historic resources. Protecting it now will ensure that the broad diversity of Americans will continue to be able to access and appreciate the canyon for many years to come, whether on an overnight river trip, driving the Snaggletooth Road, or having a picnic on the canyon rim.

The Act would protect the free-flowing character of 76 miles of the beloved Dolores River and its tributaries, and 68,851 acres of sublime desert canyons and old growth ponderosa pine forest, home to soaring sandstone cliffs and abundant wildlife. The purpose of the legislation is to “conserve, protect, and enhance the native fish, whitewater boating, recreational, scenic, cultural, archeological, natural, geologic, historical, ecological, watershed, wildlife, educational, and scientific resources” of the Conservation and Special Management Area, utilizing protections that keep the area as it is and allowing traditional uses to continue.

The lands in western Colorado are in dire need of better care to ensure a healthy ecosystem for the wildlife and people who call this region home. Protecting the Dolores River landscape also ensures large-scale landscape connectivity, which helps build resilience to climate change impacts for generations to come.

Senator Bennet has been a longtime champion for protecting the Dolores River Canyon region and we thank him for introducing – and Senator Hickenlooper for co-sponsoring – the Dolores River National Conservation Area bill. We’re excited to support Senator Bennet’s commitment to do everything he can to protect these important natural and cultural resources for generations to come.

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