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Portions of Dolores River Canyon could be protected under proposed legislation

 The Snaggletooth section of the Dolores River Canyon. Legislation has been introduced to designate a National Conservation Area (NCA) for a portion of the Dolores River Corridor
Senator Michael Bennet’s Office
KSUT Tribal Radio
The Snaggletooth section of the Dolores River Canyon. Legislation has been introduced to designate a National Conservation Area (NCA) for a portion of the Dolores River Corridor

The Dolores River Canyon is known for its scenic beauty, wildlife habitat, geological formations and cultural and Indigenous historic resources.

The river runs through several counties in southwest Colorado and on Ute Mountain Ute tribal land.

After 20 years of conversations and collaborations between San Miguel, Dolores, Montezuma counties, local ranchers, conservation groups and the Ute Mountain Ute tribe, The Dolores River National Conservation Area and special Management Area Act was introduced by Colorado Senator Michael Bennet and co-sponsored by Senator John Hickenlooper.

The legislation would designate portions of the Dolores River as a National Conservation Area or NCAA.

The Act would protect 76-miles of the river, as well as 68,000 acres of ponderosa pine forest and desert canyon.

It would start at the river below McPhee Reservoir and Dam, and end at the border of San Miguel and Montrose Counties near Bedrock.

Julie Kibel, a Dolores County Commissioner, has been working on this project since she became a commissioner in 2007. Kibel hopes that this act will keep the river protected for years to come.

"That river is kind of like our Disneyland. There's so many family history ties around that, that we just wanted that to continue from generation to generation, as well as the cultural uses that appear there. You know, there's medicinal gathering, and we just didn't want that to ever be taken away from our local pupil," said Kibel.

Kibel says that the partners within the group focused on pursuing an NCAA attribution early on because then the act could easily be tailored to local needs.

"So in all reality, the Bureau of Land Management is managing agency over the river. So now they'll just have to put in parameters, the pieces and the protection that we put within that bill on that designation of the river. And so that's where the local control comes in," said Kibel.

If the bill is passed, management plans would be created for the NCA in special management areas, and a 13 member advisory council would be formed to develop the plans.

The bill was introduced to the House Committee on Natural Resources on July 29. On August 2, Rep. Boebert's office announced she is introducing a House of Representatives companion bill to the bipartisan Dolores River National Conservation Area and Special Management Area Act.

That measure is cosponsored by the two other Colorado Republicans in the House, Reps. Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn.

According to a press release from Boebert's office, the House bill would remove the segment of the river covered by the legislation from consideration as a Wild and Scenic River, and would protect private property rights.

This story from KSUT Tribal Radio was shared via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations including KDNK in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico.

Sarah Flower