Several weeks ago, Colorado hosted its first Summer Outdoor Retailer trade show. The event and its companion Winter Outdoor Retailer show, also held in Denver this year, bring an impressive gathering of business owners and outdoor-recreation enthusiasts — the likes of which infused the economy of Salt Lake City, which hosted the shows the previous 20 years, not just with $45 million in annual revenues but with a message that extends far beyond advancements in tech gear and these weeklong convergences. In Colorado, we care about our public lands and are deeply committed to their long-term conservation.
As outdoor retailers, our identity is deeply integrated with the protection of our public lands. That Colorado is the chosen new home of this show further exemplifies what we prioritize in the Rocky Mountain state. Coloradans are proud of our year-round recreation opportunities — skiing, biking, rock climbing, paddling, hiking, camping, fishing, hunting and more — all across our pristine public lands. Our state is home to 24 million acres of public lands (about 36 percent of our land base), four national parks, eight national monuments and 41 state parks. In 2017 alone, Colorado’s national parks received more than 7.6 million visitors, generating $725.2 million in economic output.
We, as representatives of the outdoor industry, made it clear that we didn’t stand for Utah’s antipathy to public lands. As said by an Outdoor Industry Association representative, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert “indeed has a different perspective on the protections of public lands from that of our members and the majority of Western state voters, both Republicans and Democrats — that’s bad for our American heritage, and it’s bad for businesses.”
The protection of these lands is vital to our livelihoods and our economy. Annually, the outdoor recreation businesses in Colorado employ nearly 230,000 people and are responsible for $28 billion in consumer spending and $2 billion in state and local tax revenues. In relocating the Outdoor Retailer shows to Denver, the outdoor industry acknowledged the importance of Colorado elected officials who “share our views on the truly unique American value of public lands for the people and conserving our outdoor heritage.”
That’s why we were thrilled with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s recent decision to temporarily defer a proposed oil and gas lease sale of 18,000 acres on the doorstep of Great Sand Dunes National Park. The leases were proposed without critical environmental assessments and adequate consultation with locally impacted stakeholders, including tribes with cultural and spiritual ties to these lands. And, unfortunately, this reckless management of our public lands is a behavior we’re seeing across the West and our beautiful state. Just last month, the Trump administration proposed another 236,000 acres of oil and gas leases for sale in Colorado, threatening more of our recreation havens in the North Fork Valley — also the epicenter of our state’s agriculture — and near Dinosaur National Monument.
Over the past year, under the Trump administration and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, we’ve seen an exponential increase in the amount of public lands being offered up to oil and gas companies — almost 13 million acres and counting. The administration is rolling back common-sense protections in an ill-advised and unnecessary effort to streamline the leasing and development process. Rapid-fire leases, in which the public is given limited notice and a mere 10 days to participate in the protest period, are now the norm and are increasingly being placed on the doorstep of sensitive wildlife habitats, Western communities and our most-treasured recreation sites.
Now, two years into the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda, we’re looking to our local elected officials to continue taking a stand for Colorado’s public lands — not just for the outdoor-recreation industry but for the heritage of all those who call Colorado “home.”