DENVER " Environmentalists are accusing Republican Reps. Mike Coffman and Doug Lamborn of ignoring Colorado's interests in favor of partisanship by voting against a federal wilderness bill.
The bill failed by two votes in the House Wednesday. It would have set aside more than 2 million acres in nine states, including Colorado, as protected wilderness.
Colorado sites included Rocky Mountain National Park and the Dominguez Canyon area.
"We're very disappointed that despite all the local, bipartisan support for protecting Rocky Mountain National Park and Dominguez Canyon, Rep. Lamborn and Rep. Coffman chose to vote no," said Suzanne Jones, director of the regional Wilderness Society.
Republicans who voted against the bill objected to its scope and the possibility that oil and gas development would be blocked on large swaths of federal land.
"This is a massive public lands bill that was irresponsibly moved directly to the House floor for a vote without the benefit of a single public hearing," Coffman said in a written statement.
Lamborn said parts of the bill would have benefited his constituents and Colorado, but on balance "will do more harm than good." He said he was particularly concerned that amateur fossil and rock collectors could face prosecution and seizure of personal property due to restrictions in the wilderness areas.
The vote on the bill was 282-144 in favor, two votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed under a special rule that limits amendments. Colorado's five Democratic representatives voted for it.
In 2007, Colorado's congressional delegation sponsored a bill to designate about 250,000 acres in Rocky Mountain National Park " about 95 percent of the park " as wilderness. The bipartisan agreement capped years of haggling over maintaining public access to popular recreation areas and the impacts on farmers who tap an irrigation ditch running through the park.
The bill also proposed expanding the Indian Peaks Wilderness south of the park, keeping the land free of logging, mining and vehicles.
Matt Garrington of Environment Colorado said he was disappointed that Coffman and Lamborn "voted against Colorado's environment."
"You can't even say this was partisan politics," Garrington said. "There was broad bipartisan support."