Ecological Values of Colorado's Canyon Country Wilderness Proposal
Colorado's Canyon Country Wilderness Proposal seeks protection for lands that preserve Colorado's biological diversity. Biological diversity, or biodiversity, is a term commonly used to describe the variety of living things, their relationship to one another, and their interactions with the environment. Biodiversity affects more just numbers of plant and animal species, it drives our economy, enhances our lifestyles, improves our health by providing increased pharmaceutical research, clean water and clean air, and provides a variety of opportunities for recreation and tourism. The CWP recognizes the importance of maintaining Colorado’s biodiversity and enhances biological diversityit in three major ways:
representation of ecosystems contained within the National
Wilderness Preservation System units in Colorado. Colorado's Canyon Country
Wilderness Proposal adds large acreages of pinyon-juniper
woodlands, sagebrush steppe, and ponderosa pine-Douglas fir
forests to the ecosystem types, all of which are poorly
represented by current wilderness areas. More...
Parachute penstemon (Penstemon debilis) is among the
rarest of plants
in North America, known only from
five locations along the cliffs of
the Roan Plateau.
connections among significant ecological feature. CCCWP areas
offer protection to several distinctive landforms, including
low-elevation portions of the state’s major river canyons. They
preserve key connecting corridors between existing large
wilderness units, preserve corridors likely to be used by
species expanding ranges due to global climate change, and
incorporate key dispersal corridors for big game herds. More...
concentrations of rare and imperiled plant, vertebrate, and
invertebrate species. Colorado's Canyon Country Wilderness Proposal protects
many rare and imperiled elements of both Colorado’s and the
world’s biological diversity. Half of the federally-listed
Threatened and Endangered species in Colorado occur within CCCWP
areas. In addition, four-fifths of CCCWP areas contain important
habitat for globally imperiled species. CCCWP areas offer
protection for at least 87 globally imperiled or vulnerable
species, mostly plants and natural communities. Another 83
species imperiled specifically within Colorado are also
protected within these proposed wildernesses. More...
designation often brings to mind scenic landscapes offering
rugged, outdoor recreation opportunities. Preserving wilderness
to protect America’s breathtaking scenery and to offer hikers,
hunters, anglers, horsepackers, rafters, and skiers unspoiled
country to pursue their sports are worthy goals. But wilderness
also offers America the opportunity to preserve a cornucopia of
biological wealth for future generations.
tracks in Sewemup Mesa CWP.
designation offers the most permanent land use protection
available to federal public lands. Through its ban on
development activities and its emphasis on preserving native
ecosystems unmodified by human activities, wilderness offers the
best hope for preserving the biodiversity represented by unmodified natural communities. Our
existing wilderness contains few examples of the arid ecosystems
contained in desert canyons, mesas, plateaus, and mountains.
Most Colorado wilderness areas were established by devoted
recreationists hoping to preserve their favorite wild places.
That’s why so many high peaks, fourteeners, alpine lakes, and
cirque basins dot our wilderness areas. More recently, Colorado
conservationists have taken to heart concerns about old-growth
forests and conservation biology. Our newest national forest
wilderness areas include some spectacular stands of old-growth
forest, and several link high mountain wilderness with lower
elevation forests. Because desert ecosystems are lacking within
our existing wilderness system, they offer abundant
opportunities to expand the wealth of living organisms and
ecosystems included within the National Wilderness Preservation
Land managers are
just beginning to understand the role wilderness plays in
creating a viable system for
preserving biological diversity into the foreseeable future.
Conservation biologists now believe that only a system of large protected
areas (called "core reserves") linked by corridors containing
habitat suitable for movement by a variety of wildlife species
(the "landscape linkages") will suffice to ensure the
perpetuation of our natural diversity of life. In practice, this
means a connected system of large wilderness areas and national
parks, with suitable intervening habitat in which wolverines,
elk, lions, owls, and many other species can move.
now-closed vehicle way in the heart of the Little
Bookcliffs Wilderness WSA.
In earlier times,
human developments in North America consisted of isolated
activities surrounded by vast areas of wild land. Wildlife
species could simply adjust their paths and go around such
development. Today, however, it is the wild areas that comprise
the isolated patches of land, and wild species are more and more
confined to almost zoo-like preserves. We are just finally
realizing the extent to which our natural habitat has been
Threatened and Endangered Species
» View Listing of Threatened and Endangered Species
» View Listing of Additionally Globally Imperiled Species
Print version of Colorado Wilderness Facts (pdf) »