Colorado Representative Diana Degette is sponsoring the Protecting America’s Wilderness Act, also known as the PAW Act. This proposed legislation includes designating 1.3 million acres of land as Wilderness and over 1,000 miles of river as Wild and Scenic. Many of the areas being proposed are currently designated as wilderness study areas or areas with wilderness characteristics. This bill would officially designate them as Wilderness, resulting in lost access forever. Within the bill there are 6 acts that will affect substantial areas in Colorado, California, and Washington: Colorado Wilderness Act, Northwest California Wilderness, Recreation, and Working Forests Act, Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protections Act, Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act, Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
It is through designation of vast acreages of wilderness that the 30×30 Initiative will be implemented, and we must work together to stop the lock up of our lands, natural resources and recreation areas. This legislation has already passed the House of Representatives, and the Senate tried to sneak it into the NDAA back in December of 2021. This bill will greatly hinder recreation access across the western United States and we need everyone to contact their representatives to oppose this bill.
Review our Full Briefing of the Legislation
Colorado Wilderness Act:
There is over 600,000 acres of proposed Wilderness in Colorado in areas such as: Handies Peak near Silverton, Dolores River Canyon, Little Bookcliffs near Grand Junction, most of the San Juan Mountains, areas in the GMUG forests, vast areas to the West of Boulder and Denver, and too many other places to name. This will undoubtedly lead to restrictions of all forms of motorized recreation in many of Colorado’s most cherished destinations for outdoor recreation. Snowmobiling will be significantly impacted.
Northwest California Wilderness:
In California the proposal will Create restoration areas in South Fork Trinity River, Mad River, and North Fork Eel. the bill designates the Horse Mountain Special Management Area, expands current Wilderness, and designates 8 new Wilderness areas in Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, and Trinity Counties. In addition to all the restrictive wilderness designations, the bill also establishes the Sanhedrin Conservation Management Area and proposes many new non-motorized trails around areas such as Trinity Lake and Elk Camp Ridge.
Central Coast Heritage Protection Act:
This portion of the bill will designate nearly 250,000 acres of public land as Wilderness in the Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument.
San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protections Act:
The bill will expand the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, establish a National Recreation Area (NRA) along the foothills and San Gabriel River corridor, this includes Azusa Canyon which is a popular OHV area in Southern California. While National Recreation Areas sometimes result in managed opportunities for motorized recreation, these areas often also tend to be managed like National Parks and wilderness areas over time.
Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act:
The entire area in the map above would now be closed off to motorized use.
Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act:
In the map above you can see the areas in purple that would be designated as wilderness under the PAW act. There are numerous roads and trails that cross through these areas. It is worth noting that the area in beige is a National Park, and the bright green areas are already designated wilderness. The vast majority of this landscape is already managed under very restrictive designations. The inclusion of the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers is one more reason this bill should be opposed by those who enjoy recreating in and utilizing public land.