Public lands key to Colorado’s economy

We are lucky in Colorado because many of our state’s most remarkable landscapes are located on public lands we all own. From iconic peaks to isolated mountain streams, these lands offer prime opportunities for reflection, recreation, hunting and fishing, among other pursuits. They are places that have brought many of us here to live and work in the first place.

In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates outdoor activities like these brought $2.9 billion into the Colorado’s economy last year. Outside projections indicate that President Obama’s recent designation of Chimney Rock as a national monument will double the economic benefit the iconic formation provides the region, bringing an additional $1.2 million to the area. Coloradans on whole saw nearly 75,000 jobs and more than $14 billion in economic development derived from our public lands, and that’s just in 2011.

Coloradans understand that our national leaders should exhibit a careful balance when managing the American people’s investment in these lands. Whether an area is drilled for gas and oil, or preserved as wilderness (both important and legitimate uses), the proper stewardship – and continued ownership – of our public lands should be prioritized if Colorado’s going to thrive in the 21st century.

Unfortunately, that ownership and balanced stewardship is currently threatened. Some members of the House of Representatives have proposed selling off millions of acres of public lands to the highest bidder. These millions of acres you and I hold title to would be put up on the auction block if some have their way.

It’s clear the federal government must confront our fiscal challenges, but policies like this put our economic future, not to mention our treasured national heritage, at risk. Rather, we should protect one of the key economic drivers of Colorado’s economy – our public lands – by rejecting these misguided policies.

Sen. Michael Bennet

Denver

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