July 27, 2023 UPDATE: After a four month closure, Mt Democrat and Mt Lincoln re-opened to the public thanks to a temporary waiver system. Help us protect long term access to these peaks by visiting www.fixCRUS.org to learn about our effort to strengthen Colorado’s recreational use statute (CRUS). We need your help to make it happen. Learn more.
Denver, CO – Despite being endorsed by 25 organizations, SB 103, a bill aimed at protecting and restoring public access to the 14ers, has been defeated thanks to opposition from the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association. The bill aimed to ensure that the public could access Mount Lindsey, the four Decalibron 14ers, and other private lands for recreation, by strengthening legal liability protections for landowners who grant access free of charge.
As a result of this defeat, the landowner has no choice but to close off the area to public access, including Mount Democrat, Mount Cameron, Mount Lincoln, and Mount Bross.
The Colorado Sun reported this: “I have been advised by my own attorneys on several occasions that I am rolling the dice by leaving these peaks open,” said John Reiber, who has spent years working with the Town of Alma, the Forest Service and Colorado hiking groups to keep trails on his land on Mount Democrat and Mount Lincoln open for the roughly 30,000 visitors hiking the Decalibron Loop every year. “Now, I do plan to close the 14ers for access. Without any regulatory support … I can no longer take on the level of risk in case someone gets hurt and wants to sue me.”
This means that 5 of the 58 fourteeners are now closed to the public. This represents nearly 10% of them. Additional public access to three other privately owned 14ers and many 13ers is now at risk, along with hundreds of miles of trails and thousands of acres of hunting and camping lands across the state.
“This is a really tragic outcome,” said Alex Derr, Chief Mountain Officer of The Next Summit. “What makes it more tragic is that it was completely avoidable.”
The landowners warned the Senate Judiciary Committee in frank terms that closing off the area was one of the only options they had left to protect themselves from a lawsuit. The committee voted down the bill on a 3-2 vote.
“I’m sad about this development, but more fired up than ever to advocate for a restoration of access through targeted improvements to our state statutes,” he added.
The defeat of the bill is a blow to the dedicated and hardworking coalition that has supported this bill, but we are determined to continue and press foward.
The coalition includes the Boulder Climbing Community, Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, The Next Summit, Access Fund, American Alpine Club, Colorado Mountain Club, Continental Divide Trail Association, Outdoor Alliance, People for Bikes, Bicycle Colorado, the International Mountain Biking Association, Open Boulder, Winter Wildlands Alliance, Trust for Public Land, Rocky Mountain Wild, The Wilderness Society, Trails and Open Space Coalition, and many others.
The full list of supporters and opponents is included at the end of the article.
The closure of the four Decalibron 14ers represents a significant loss for the people of Colorado, who have a strong tradition of enjoying the outdoors and recreational activities. The defeat of this bill highlights the need for continued advocacy and support for legislation that protects public access to public lands.
Get Updates on this Issue:
To keep up to date on this issue and help support our campaign to restore public access, visit www.fixCRUS.org and learn more about the organizations working to address this situation.
Groups Endorsing SB 103:
- Boulder Climbing Community
- Bicycle Colorado
- Colorado Civil Justice League
- Central Colorado Cattlemen’s Association
- Colorado Fourteeners Initiative
- The Next Summit
- Access Fund
- American Alpine Club
- Colorado Farm Bureau
- Colorado Mountain Club
- Continental Divide Trail Association
- Open Boulder
- Colorado Springs Utilities
- Colorado Water Congress
- International Council of Shopping Centers
- Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
- Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association
- Ute Water Conservancy District
- International Mountain Biking Association
- People for Bikes
- Outdoor Alliance
- Mosquito Range Heritage Initiative
- Winter Wildlands Alliance
- Trust for Public Land
- Trails and Open Space Coalition
- Rocky Mountain Wild
- Rec Law
- The Wilderness Society
- The Town of Alma
- Park County Board of Commissioners
Groups Opposing SB 103:
- The Colorado Trial Lawyers Association
Here are additional resources related to the Decalibron 14ers closure, Mount Lindsey closure, and the campaign to pass SB 103 into law.
- SB 103 Talking Points and Background Brief
- Mount Bross Closure Information
- SB 103 Status Page and Explanation of Changes
- Landowner will close access to two Colorado 14ers after lawmakers rejected legislation limiting liability
- Colorado may bolster liability protections for private landowners who let the public recreate on their lands
- PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP KEEPS 14ER PEAKS OPEN IN PARK COUNTY