SJCA Guide to

San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act

The most iconic and spectacular landscapes in the San Juan Mountains deserve protection. This bill would expand wilderness designations and safeguard beloved high country destinations, like Ice Lake Basin, from future mining.
Photo: Jason Hatfield

The San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act, first introduced in Congress in 2009, would secure protections for nearly 60,000 acres in the heart of the San Juan Mountains.

Half of the acreage would expand or create wilderness for well-known vistas, like the Sneffels Range and Lizard Head, while the other half would ensure management protections from mining, roads and oil and gas development for Ice Lake Basin and Hope Lake.

Ask  Senators Bennet and Gardner and your Representative to introduce the bill.

Take Action Button

Protections proposed in the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act:

Mount Sneffels Wilderness Additions

20,438 acres

The bill proposes to double the size of the existing Mount Sneffels Wilderness. The inclusion of Whitehouse Mountain completes wilderness designation for one of the most recognizable mountain scenes in Colorado – the blazing fall colors of the Sneffels Range as viewed from Dallas Divide. The wilderness addition is bounded on the south by the Camp Bird Mine Road, which leads to Yankee Boy Basin and other four-wheel-drive routes heavily utilized during summer months.

Near Telluride, the Last Dollar/Sheep Creek addition incorporates the entirety of Mill Creek Basin into the wilderness, and the Last Dollar addition extends the wilderness boundary west out to the Last Dollar Road. These add lower aspen blanketed slopes to the wilderness.

See detailed map for Whitehouse Mountain addition.

See detailed map for Last Dollar addition.

Lizard Head Wilderness Additions

3,350 acres

A set of wilderness additions is proposed to round out the boundary of the Lizard Head Wilderness. These reflect recent Forest Service land acquisitions, addition of lower forested slopes, and protection of the scenic backdrop of the San Juan Skyway. The largest portion is located in Silver Pick Basin and adds the west face of 14,017-foot Wilson Peak into the wilderness, a result of Forest Service acquiring a handful of patented mining claims in the basin in 2015. Other additions include the aspen covered slopes below Sunshine Mountain and the scenic slopes below Black Face and San Bernardo Mountain on Lizard Head Pass.

Photo: Jason Hatfield

See detailed map.

McKenna Peak Wilderness

8,600 acres

McKenna Peak would be the first wilderness designated under BLM administration in southwest Colorado. McKenna Peak’s eroded adobe badlands are presided over by imposing sandstone cliffs that rise 2,000 feet above the plain. The bill designates the northern half of the existing McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area (WSA) in San Miguel County as wilderness, and leaves the southern half in Dolores County as a WSA. Local county commissioners support these protections.

See detailed map.

Sheep Mountain Special Management Area

21,620 acres

Sheep Mountain is one of the largest, undeveloped roadless areas in Colorado not designated as Wilderness. It includes the popular trail to Ice Lake Basin, cherished for its many lakes nestled in expansive fields of wildflowers and bordered by slopes and peaks streaked with color. The area takes in the headwaters of South Mineral Creek, just outside the Bonita Peak Mining District where hardrock mines have long polluted the Animas River headwaters.

Sheep Mountain has been long recognized for its wilderness character, with citizen wilderness proposals dating to the 1970s. Several incompatible activities in the form of heli-skiing and the use of Hope Lake as part of Excel Energy’s Ames hydroelectric project preclude full-fledged wilderness designation. The bill would, however, create a Special Management Area, similar to the 2014 Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Area, to protect it against future mining of the type that has long polluted the Animas and from new road construction. The designation applies to lands in San Juan and San Miguel counties, but in the future additional area in adjacent Dolores County could be added.

See detailed map.

Naturita Canyon Mineral Withdrawal Area

6,000 acres

Naturita Canyon is a tributary to the San Miguel River near Norwood, with canyon slopes dominated by pinyon-juniper, gambel oak, and ponderosa pine. It’s important as a municipal water supply, but has been threatened with oil and gas development in the past. The bill prohibits future oil and gas leasing in order to protect community water sources.

Photo: Sheep Mountain Alliance

See detailed map.

Take Action!

number41 (2)Get the bill introduced!

Ask Senators Bennet and Gardner and your Representative to introduce the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act. Email them here.


It will take a lot of work to get this bill passed into law. If we have the resources, we can get it done. Donate here.

Learn More

We are involved in similar work on public lands throughout the region. Check out our Public Lands page for more information.

Stay Informed About the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act.

Optional Member Code

Recent News (More)

View of Animas Valley from Animas Mountain

To plan, or not to plan – land use in La Plata County

| Durango Herald Column, Lands Protection | One Comment
It might be easy to chuckle at the silliness of the conspiracy theorists convinced the United Nations is scheming with La Plata County to forcibly relocate rural folks into urban housing centers. Easy, unless you’re the county commissioners bearing the…

Wins of 2017!

| Climate Change, Coal, Gold King Mine, Lands Protection, Oil & Gas, Renewable Energy, Rivers, Species, Wolf Creek | No Comments
Was 2017 a challenging year? Hell yes. And that's why our work is so critical. We’re here because public and environmental health doesn’t always get prioritized over corporate interests. We’re here because wildlife, water and a stable climate don’t have…
Photo of BLM meeting

Now’s the time to voice your views about our public lands’ future

| Durango Herald Column, Lands Protection, Oil & Gas, Wolf Creek | No Comments
Last week’s events punctuated by the Trump administration’s cavalier abandonment of a century’s worth of American conservation practice is greatly discouraging. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wiped out more than 1 million acres of protected landscapes in two national monuments in…
Picture high in the Weminuche Wilderness

133 Conservation Groups Tell Congress: Keep Bikes Out of Wilderness

| Lands Protection, Species | No Comments
"Wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity of the human spirit." Edward Abbey   It seems so obvious that we should preserve at least some small part of this planet to remain relatively untouched by humans and our destructive…