Sasha Nelson: Celebrate public lands with me!
May, the month I was born, has always been a month for me to celebrate, but this week Colorado added a reason for everyone to rejoice. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill establishing the third Saturday in May as a holiday to celebrate the myriad benefits that public lands bring to the state of Colorado.
Colorado has 30 million acres of national and state public lands, including mountains, deserts, forests and grasslands. The outdoor recreation economy generates $13.2 billion per year and supports 125,000 direct jobs in Colorado. Hunting and tourism resulting from public lands bring in billions.
For me, and many others, our public lands and the memories of time spent with family and friends are priceless.
As I travel across our region it’s similar to a 3-D scrapbook. In this place my family watched a herd of elk play in a beaver pond. In that place my uncle was married. In this place we got stuck and had to walk miles into town. In that place my mother bagged a huge bull elk. So while our parks, monuments, forests and other lands provide a competitive advantage to the communities and business who have made Colorado home, for me it’s a much more personal celebration.
At the heart of a celebration of Colorado’s public lands is a celebration of who we are, who we want to be and the lasting legacy we want to leave for the future.
The idea to celebrate our public lands in Colorado was born from the aftermath of the Bundy family, made famous for their standoff with Nevada BLM, and their takeover of Oregon’s Malheur Wildlife Refuge. Celebrating rather than seizing public lands sets Colorado apart.
There were attempts made to attach language with anti-federal management sentiment to the mill, but Senate Bill 21 passed with such language and with bipartisan support, 36-29 vote in the House and 25-8 vote in the Senate. The bill is truly representative of the 95 percent of Coloradans who have visited their public lands in the past year, as well as 59 percent of Colorado voters who oppose efforts to turn national public lands over to the state.
In this day and age of hyper-partisanship, bi-partisan support of any type of legislation is an anomaly. Celebrating our public lands and recognizing the immense value our public lands bring to our local economies and quality of life is important.
Agencies such as BLM are woefully underfunded trying to manage complex systems in difficult times. However, the basic tenants of public lands management for multiple-use and the mission to solicit input from the public remain strong. Hopefully BLM’s new planning rules, dubbed, Planning 2.0, will enhance public involvement by soliciting input earlier and more often during planning processes. Planning 2.0 also promises to look at our public lands at a landscape-level, instead of just through the lens of arbitrary political boundaries.
Our public lands are integral to our way of life in Northwest Colorado. I’m proud that we lead the nation by being the first state to establish a holiday celebrating our public lands.
Save the date. The first official Public Lands Day will take place on the third Saturday in May 2017, and I hope you’ll join me in celebrating our public lands.
Sasha Nelson is the field organizer for Conservation Colorado's Craig office.Sasha Nelson is the field organizer for Conservation Colorado's Craig office. Sasha Nelson is the field organizer for Conservation Colorado’s Craig office.
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