Romney-Ryan ticket would undo public lands protections | PostIndependent.com

Romney-Ryan ticket would undo public lands protections

My Side
Mark Udall
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Udall Mark (D-CO)
U.S. Senate Photographic Studio |

From the grasslands of the Eastern Plains to the crimson cliffs of the Western Slope, Colorado’s public lands and natural splendor forms the foundation for our quality of life. For many of us, these natural features and scenic landscapes are why we have chosen to live and do business in Colorado.

Our parks, forests and public lands also form the bedrock for much of our economy, drawing tourists to Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West from across the nation and around the world.

A recent study by the Montana-based think tank, Headwaters Economics, showed that from 2000 to 2012, Colorado created more than 228,000 jobs in large part due to our natural resources and open spaces.

That is why I have been a fierce advocate of promoting and protecting those places that make Colorado special and define our quality of life. I am currently working on three wilderness proposals that will ensure that special parts of our central mountains, Browns Canyon and the San Juan mountain range remain pristine for future generations. I also am working with communities across the state, including Gunnison, Chaffee and Mesa counties, to better manage and protect public lands in their backyards.

Here in the West, we have always known that we must work together to get anything done, whether it’s climbing a peak, drilling a well, or managing our public lands. This kind of collaborative philosophy has informed the way I work in Washington, and should be the guiding force in how we make decisions about protecting our public lands.

This approach has helped me and my peers in the Colorado congressional delegation to create new national parks and wilderness areas – like the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in the San Luis Valley – that will endure as economic drivers and job creators all over our state.

In contrast to what Coloradans believe and hold sacred, the Romney-Ryan ticket is recommending that the federal government balance our budget in part on the back of our public lands. Congressman Ryan’s budget, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year, would enact steep cuts to the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service, and that could force the closure of parks and restrict access to public lands.

In fact, the platform approved by the Republican Party in Tampa, Fla., earlier this year recommends that Congress consider selling public lands – a proposal that surfaces every year in the U.S. Senate.

It’s not surprising then that Gov. Romney told a newspaper earlier this year that he doesn’t know why the government “owns so much of this land” in the West and doesn’t understand “what the purpose is of the land.”

This mindset and the misguided policies that result would undo much of what generations of lawmakers from across the political spectrum in Colorado and the West have accomplished. In fact, this uninformed vision would erode the achievements of one of our great presidents and a hero of mine, Theodore Roosevelt. Our 26th president, himself a Republican, protected and preserved approximately 230 million acres across America.

As we look to rebuild our economy and keep Colorado strong, there is nothing more important than conserving and protecting resources that for generations have provided minerals, grazing land, drinking and irrigation water, food and recreation.

I want to encourage Coloradoans, Westerners and all Americans to bear in mind their role in protecting our public lands – which define America – as they head to the polls or cast their mail-in ballots.

Our national parks, monuments and wilderness areas are Colorado and the West’s most reliable and enduring economic drivers. More importantly, they are not gifts we inherited from our parents, but national treasures we are borrowing from our children and future generations.

Mark Udall serves on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and is Colorado’s senior senator.


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