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U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert talks defense of Dolores River Corridor

Representative meets with Ute Mountain Ute, Dolores County officials Saturday
Lauren Boebert (R-CD3) visited the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe on Saturday to discuss H. R. 8601, the “Dolores River National Conservation Area and Special Management Area Act.” The act aims to protect the Dolores River corridor by conserving wildlife and protecting private water and private property rights. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

TOWAOC – U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert met with Ute Mountain Ute and Dolores and Montezuma County officials on Saturday to affirm her commitment to protecting the Dolores River Corridor. The meeting was the first of three appearances in the region she had scheduled for Saturday.

Boebert gathered with a small group of local officials outside the Ute Mountain Ute Casino near Cortez, where she spoke of her work on H.R. 8601, the “Dolores River National Conservation Area and Special Management Area Act.”

She introduced the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives and it serves as a companion piece of legislation to an identical bill in the U.S. Senate backed by Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, she said.

The bill aims to “conserve, protect and enhance” a list of features in the San Juan National Forest and the Dolores River Corridor, including public and private land and water rights, by designating 68,851 acres of land in Dolores, Montezuma and San Miguel counties as conservation management and special management areas, she said.

In addition to property and water rights protection, benefits to designations include conservation of native fish; whitewater boating; and recreational, scenic and archaeological potential; as well as geological, historical, and educative and scientific resources, Boebert said.

“We all want to be good stewards of our land. We want to be able to manage our land and be able to access that land as well. And I think being good stewards is part of our nature,” she said.

The land in question was identified as suitable for a “wild and scenic river” designation in the 1970s, which Boebert said is not in the best interest for the rural Colorado communities of the region. The wild and scenic designation would include new federal reserve water rights, which would negatively impact existing private water rights, she said.

“I’ve been fighting for private water rights for two years now in the Legislature and it’s so important that we continue to protect those private property rights,” she said. “And that’s exactly what this does. This bill would designate this section of the Dolores River in question as an NCA and eliminate it from the wild (and) scenic river designation that it is currently a candidate for, permanently preserving the river and protecting these private property and water rights.”

Boebert said that as she champions H.R. 8601, she has also combatted rival bills that go too far and “overstep” on private property and water rights. She named the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act and the Colorado Wilderness Act introduced by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a D-Denver.

The rival bills would take 750,000 acres of land from Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, she said.

“I’ve certainly spent a lot of time in Montezuma County talking about this, and the concerns that locals have with those pieces of legislation were widely ignored,” she said.

She said the Colorado Wilderness Act, pushed by DeGette, whose district is based in Denver, would “mostly impact Colorado’s 3rd district.”

“I just sit back and wonder what would it be like if I introduced legislation to designate the 16th Street Mall in Congresswoman DeGette’s district as ‘wilderness,’” she said. “I think we can agree that parts of it are wild and scenic, but that would be (her) district and I wouldn't want to do anything to step on her toes. That’s where she represents her people.”

Her bill has two Republican co-sponsors, U.S. Reps. Ken Buck (R-CD4) and Doug Lamborn (R-CD5), she said. She also complimented Bennet’s and Hickenlooper’s “bipartisan and bicameral” efforts on their bill in the U.S. Senate.

“I’m excited to introduce this, to have this bill, to introduce this in the next Congress in the majority, so we don’t have to be threatened with the wild and scenic river designation or wilderness designation that would lock up our lands and our river,” she said.

Floyd Cook, Dolores County commissioner, attended a meeting with U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CD3) on Saturday at the Ute Mountain Ute Casino to discuss H.R. 8601, a companion bill to another piece of legislation in the U.S. Senate that would protect wildlife and water and land rights in the Dolores River Corridor. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

Dolores County Commissioner Floyd Cook, who attended the meeting with the congresswoman, said he is pleased that the Dolores River Corridor has Boebert’s, Bennet’s and Hickenlooper’s support. He said securing national conservation area status has been nearly two decades in the making.

“We have opposition, no doubt, but we’ve got Dolores River voters ...,” he said. “Everybody at the table to bring this together in a bipartisan effort.”

He said H.R. 8601 is “one of the best things we could do for our Dolores River Corridor, protection of water rights (and) grazing rights, we’re protecting the small miners’ rights. It’s just a wonderful thing.”

Lyndreth Wall, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe councilman, also shared his optimism with the future of water and property rights in the area.

He said as stewards of the land, it is the job of the people of the Dolores River Corridor to take care of the water, the plants and wildlife, and the Native tribes.

Lyndreth Wall, Ute Mountain Ute tribal councilman, attended a meeting with U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CD3) on Saturday at the Ute Mountain Ute Casino to discuss H.R. 8601, a companion bill to another piece of legislation in the U.S. Senate that would protect wildlife and water and land rights in the Dolores River Corridor. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

“Fourteen years has been a long time coming. And we’re still making that tread mark in the sand,” he said. “... It’s important that we work together. It’s a must.”

He said hunting rights and the right to firearms are also important to the tribe, and he looks forward to continue networking and working with neighboring communities to protect his Colorado home.

cburney@durangoherald.com

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