There's good news and bad news out of the breaking news Wednesday that the U.S. House passed the Colorado Wilderness Act on a 231-183 vote.
The good news is it got that far. The bad news is that's probably as far as it'll get.
The White House and Republicans, who control the U.S. Senate, have aligned against the set aside of almost 1.4 million acres in Colorado, California and Washington.
The bill led by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette includes about 660,000 acres in Colorado, most in low-lying canyon country, plus 630,700 acres in California and 131,700 acres in Washington. The proposal also would award protections for about 1,000 miles waterways to be added to the National Wild and Scenic River Systems.
The Trump administration has sought to loosen controls on national monuments and other public lands suitable for drilling, mining, logging, road-building and other development.
At a House Rules Committee hearing this week, the White House sent an advisory that Trump would like spike the legislation, if it makes it that far.
The Colorado House delegation split along party lines on the bill.
“We have been working on this legislation for more than 20 years,” DeGette said in a statement. “The areas that will be protected under this bill are some of the most beautiful and pristine landscapes that our country has to offer. And by officially designating them as wilderness, as this bill does, we will finally be providing them the permanent protection they deserve.”
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, a Republican from Cortez, voted against the bill but introduced a measure Wednesday to study the impact of wilderness designations in the West on Department of Defense readiness. He opposed the bill because it would have an impact on helicopter training. Tipton also sought to strike the inclusion of new wilderness areas in his congressional district on Colorado's West Slope. He said in committee this week that local officials were opposed to the designation.
"My district is home to one of the installations that conducts military aviation training missions for our men and women in uniform, the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site or HAATS located in Gypsum, Colorado," he said in a statement. "It is both an honor and a privilege to represent the lone U.S. Department of Defense schoolhouse where rotary-wing aviators in our nation’s armed forces and our foreign allies learn how to safely fly rotary-wing aircraft in mountainous, high-altitude environments. The life-saving training acquired by our servicemen and women at HAATS is vital to our national security and readiness."
DeGette previously said she has worked out the bill so that it would not impact helicopter landing areas.
Conservation Colorado, the state's largest environmental organization, was pleased with the House vote.
“In passing H.R.2546, the Colorado Wilderness Act of 2019, with a bipartisan vote the U.S. House has once again reaffirmed its commitment to our public lands and Colorado way of life," Jessica Goad, the organization's deputy director, said in a statement, before she thanked DeGette.