The chance to make a real and lasting impact in the world comes along rarely. U.S. Sen. Mark Udall’s announcement that he is proposing new wilderness for Colorado, including lands in the Roaring Fork Valley, is one of those moments. The lands in his proposal, if designated as wilderness, would be distinct among other wilderness lands in our area. They are low-elevation lands that are crucial for wildlife and are rarely protected within the wilderness system. I applaud Sen. Udall’s efforts and strongly encourage him to add more lands to his proposal. Basalt Mountain in particular is a crucial piece of low elevation land that is filled with excellent habitat and helps provide a key link across the Roaring Fork Valley. After having hiked and climbed up the awesome Seven Castles area, I knew how special it is. Its location adjacent to Red Table Mountain (included in Sen. Udall’s proposal) only enhances its ecological and recreation values. Protected together, the two areas would provide one of the largest unfragmented sections of low elevation lands in the state. I am grateful for the vision and work of Sen. Udall. The opportunity to create wilderness doesn’t arise often and I encourage Sen. Udall to take full advantage of this opportunity and protect as much land as possible.Katey BusterAspen
Recently, some apparently uninformed or misguided Colorado state legislators (chief among them, Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg) have introduced House Bill 1322, which would sell-off or transfer federal public lands, ultimately removing them from the public domain, which means the owners of these currently public lands (i.e., me and you) would be locked out: no more hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, backpacking, biking, etc.Rep. Sonnenberg apparently doesn’t understand that sportsmen’s economic impact to Colorado (which is dependent on public lands) is over $2 billion dollars annually, and a renewable resource. Forest Service and BLM lands are major drivers to tourism and travel, and are essential to local communities all over Colorado, such as Meeker, Craig, Gunnison, Kremmling, Rifle and Yuma.In addition, every dollar we put into land acquisition contributes about $2 to the U.S. economy, and hunting and fishing generate more than $6.3 billion in annual tax revenues and create more than 900,000 sustainable American jobs. Federal investment in public lands (parks, refuges, trails, rivers, recreation areas and national forests) drives a conservation, recreation and historic preservation sector of the economy that supports 9.4 million U.S. jobs. The combination of conservation, outdoor recreation and historic preservation is responsible for more than $1 trillion in economic activity and more than $107 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues.Federally-owned public lands in America were created to be preserved in perpetuity. Great wildlife and conservation leaders like Teddy Roosevelt fought their own battles simply to set aside public lands, and knew even then some people would come later to covet those lands and seek to take over or liquidate them. In a nutshell, HB 1322 is an attempt to transfer public lands from the public domain to the private, where they’ll eventually be sold off to the highest bidder. Public lands of the Forest Service and BLM are the assets of all 310 million American citizens. Did anyone ask all of them if they want their federal public lands sold to the highest bidder? Urge your legislators to do Colorado a huge favor and vote “no” on HB 1322.David Lien, co-chairColorado Backcountry Hunters & AnglersColorado Springs
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