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Opinion: Wild places in Colorado need and deserve more protection Westerners, public lands, and the leaders who listen

The question “Do westerners love their outdoors?” is like asking “Does the sun rise in the East?”

Their love has been verified time and again, as it was in this year’s Colorado College Conservation in the West poll, which asked voters in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho about their attitudes on policies impacting the use and protection of public lands.

Christa Nenaber

Across political persuasions, respondents showed their fervent shared commitment to conservation on national public lands.

The poll reveals that a full 70 percent of Western voters view themselves as outdoor recreation enthusiasts and more than three-in-five Westerners say that being near public lands and trails is a factor in their decision to live in the West. Perhaps most revealing, a whopping 87 percent with almost no partisan distinction believe the outdoor economy is important to the future of their state.

Clearly Colorado’s U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet has been listening. A few weeks ago Bennet and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse announced the new Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act, a comprehensive public lands bill that would protect wild places throughout Colorado, each of which have been a part of individual legislative proposals supported by Bennet in the past.

The CORE Act unites four bills crafted with local governments and businesses, conservationists and sportsmen over a 10-year period and protects approximately 400,000 acres of Colorado public land, creating new wilderness areas and securing existing outdoor recreation uses such as hiking and mountain biking that will boost the economy for future generations. It would be the largest acreage set aside in Colorado since the Colorado Wilderness Act in 1993.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Bennet perceptively said at the announcement, “I think of this as an expression of the bipartisan desire of Coloradans to protect places that are special to them and also seek the economic benefits that occur when public lands are protected.”  

He is spot on about what Coloradans want and the economic benefits this act will bring if signed into law. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy generates $28 billion in consumer spending and supports 229,000 jobs, four times as many direct jobs as the oil and gas industry and the mining industry combined. All told, 71 percent of Colorado residents participate in outdoor recreation each year.

As a company that has had a retail presence here in Colorado since 1994, Patagonia fully understands the importance of the relationship between protecting the beautiful places in Colorado and the success of our business in the Centennial State.

The CORE Act is consistent with Patagonia’s values. We are in total agreement with Sen. Bennet’s actions to protect outdoor spaces as a life-giving resource for the benefit of Colorado residents and all those who come to enjoy the best of Colorado.

Sen. Bennet is doing nothing more than following the values of his constituents, and many others who live in Western states, to protect and maintain access to our public lands and waters.

Patagonia, too, sees the nation’s public lands as places of immeasurable worth and in 2017 found the shrinking of national monuments to be a wake-up call. But our ongoing outspoken support for protection of America’s public lands is not for the love of getting entangled in politics. Rather, we do what we do, because we believe it is right.

Our actions come from a deep sense of caring, and it is our intention to act with integrity. With these values and intentions we are willing to proceed and follow what we know is true, for as long as it takes.

We applaud Sen. Bennet for that kind of integrity and long-term vision. We admire his persistence with the CORE Act and continuing support for Westerner’s love of public lands.

His steadfast commitment to stay the course was quite obvious when asked how likely it would be for the president to sign the CORE Act into law if it made it through both chambers of Congress.  

Bennet responded that he really didn’t know, but believed the legislation too important to not push forward and then added “in the meantime we need to do our work.”

Christa Nenaber is Patagonia Denver Store Manager. Gannon Hartnett is Patagonia Boulder Store Manager. Founded by Yvon Chouinard in 1973, Patagonia is an outdoor apparel company based in Ventura, California.


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