Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness Act
STATEMENT OF SUE MASICA, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PARK PLANNING, FACILITIES, AND LANDS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS OF THE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 1510, TO DESIGNATE AS WILDERNESS CERTAIN LANDS WITHIN THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK IN THE STATE OF COLORADO.
APRIL 6, 2006
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 1510, a bill to designate as wilderness certain lands within Rocky Mountain National Park.
The Department supports S. 1510 if amended to reflect recent discussions with the Town of Grand Lake, Grand County, and other interested parties.
S. 1510 would designate approximately 249,339 acres of Rocky Mountain National Park’s (park) backcountry in the National Wilderness Preservation System. This represents approximately 95% of the park’s total acreage, lands that currently are managed as wilderness.
In 1964, Congress designated Rocky Mountain National Park as a wilderness study area. In 1974, President Nixon recommended to Congress 239,835 acres for immediate designation and 5,169 acres for potential designation as wilderness in the park. S. 1510 increases the recommended acreage amount based on modifications brought about by land acquisition and boundary adjustments since 1974.
Present road, water, and utility corridors, and all developed areas, are excluded from recommended wilderness. Wilderness designation would not alter any current visitor activities or access within the park, and would allow visitors to utilize the park in the same ways and locations that they presently enjoy.
Federal reserved water rights for park purposes are not an issue related to wilderness designation as water rights for the park have been adjudicated through the State of Colorado water courts. Consequently, no water rights claims for wilderness purposes are needed or desired by the National Park Service (NPS).
After holding public meetings on the proposed designation in June 2005, the gateway communities of Estes Park and Grand Lake, and the counties of Grand and Larimer endorsed wilderness designation for Rocky Mountain National Park, subject to specific boundary modifications on the west boundary of the park. These modifications would provide an area of non-wilderness around the Town of Grand Lake in order to ensure that the park could continue to actively manage hazardous fuels and other uses that might affect the Town. The proposed modifications would also reserve a corridor along Shadow Mountain and Granby reservoirs for the possible building of a non-motorized hike/bike trail along the east shore of these two reservoirs. The building of this trail would be subject to the normal NPS planning process for such proposals including analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act.
We would be happy to work with the Committee on amendments to the bill that would reflect the proposals made by the local communities.
That concludes my statement. I would be happy to answer any questions that you or other members of the subcommittee might have.