One of the most important topics in the realm of environmental policy issues right now is access to and protection of public lands. And it is a complex topic, for sure. Angler’s Covey, as a member of the outdoor recreation industry, has always strived to be a steward of our natural resources through our support of and collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, and Trout Unlimited. As David Leinweber, owner of Angler’s Covey, says “We can be the eyes and ears of the forest” (Gazette). Why is the topic of public access so important – economically, environmentally, and recreationally?
Public lands include national parks, national forests, wilderness areas, wild and scenic rivers, and wildlife preserves. The public – you and me – owns these lands and pay, basically, around $4.00 per year in income taxes to preserve these lands for public use.
Transfer of these public lands to the hands of state governments works against our best interests because it opens up the very real possibility of the sale and transference of the lands to private, for-profit businesses for energy, timber, and mineral rights.
[I]t is no wonder that Coloradans also say that public lands was just as significant a factor in their decision to stay in the state as is economic opportunities. Coloradans – like Westerners overall – place the environment, public lands, and the related outdoor lifestyle emanating from those as the biggest factors in drawing them to the state and keeping them here.” -- Conservation in the West Poll
Some folks may argue that as a member of the outdoor recreation business, Angler’s Covey has a vested interest in the protection of these lands. True.
We all do.
In fact, public opinion research commissioned by The Colorado College in 2013 found that more than 9 in 10 Westerners see national parks, national forests, wildlife refuges, and other public lands as essential to the economic prosperity of their state. For Colorado, “where tourism and outdoor recreation is tied with health care and tech in voters’ minds as important economic industries, it is no wonder that Coloradans also say that public lands was just as significant a factor in their decision to stay in the state as is economic opportunities. Coloradans – like Westerners overall – place the environment, public lands, and the related outdoor lifestyle emanating from those as the biggest factors in drawing them to the state and keeping them here.” See the report here with specifics about the state of Colorado.
According to reports commissioned and published by the industries themselves, U.S. outdoor recreation accounts for more direct jobs than oil, natural gas, and mining combined.
On Wednesday, September 28, 80 representatives of Colorado’s outdoor recreation industry met with Forest Service officials and the Outdoor Access Working Group. The focus of the discussion was on easing the paper-laden bureaucracy to enable easier access to public lands while also protecting and conserving those lands (Gazette).
At that meeting, Scott Braden, public lands advocate for Conservation Colorado, said “"To the extent that this [streamlined permitting] process allows more people to connect with public lands in a way that keeps the environment protected, that's a process we'll be supportive of."
David Leinweber has written about the importance of this topic before. “We must find ways of working together so that we can balance grazing, timber harvest, off-road vehicle use, and energy development, while still protecting and enhancing some of the best hunting and fishing opportunities on the planet.“
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