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Opinion Columns

Opinion: Land and water conservation fund is crucial to local Colorado businesses

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has an incredible track record for over 50 years as one of America’s best tools for protecting public lands and helping Americans get outdoors.

Not only is the fund’s support for protecting our environment, enabling access to outdoor recreation and promoting the nation’s public health outstanding, it is also critical for Colorado businesses. 

Allison and Jack Hansell

As a brewery located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, our livelihood relies on the abundance of recreation opportunities nearby.

We estimate over 70% of our customer base to be people headed to and from the mountains to enjoy hiking, fishing, camping, hunting, skiing … you name it.

Access to public lands, freshwater lakes and streams in our state is the main attraction for these patrons.

That scenario is a statewide phenomenon: 73% of Coloradans polled say that access to public lands is a significant reason why they live here. That’s the foundation that supports the Colorado way of life — and happily supports our brewery. 

We are all thankful for the LWCF funding that protects Colorado’s outdoor places and makes our personal and business lives so rewarding and prosperous.

Remarkably, LWCF uses only funds generated from the offshore drilling operations of oil and gas companies and not taxpayer dollars, and then puts it to work making common-sense investments in American communities, from national parks to community recreation centers.

In Colorado, LWCF has directly invested almost $275 million in our open spaces, forests and local trails — which pays off considerably in great outdoor experiences and in sizable economic benefits for local communities and Colorado businesses. 

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

LWCF is authorized for nearly $1 billion annually to fund projects — but much of this funding is often appropriated by Congress each year for other purposes.

Without a policy of dedicated funding, many projects that would benefit our communities go unfunded year after year. 

There has been movement this year in Congress to secure LWCF contributions, which is encouraging. Earlier this year, both chambers of Congress voted with broad bipartisan support to permanently reauthorize the program as part of the largest public lands package in a decade, ensuring that LWCF will continue to protect our access to public lands for our grandchildren and beyond.

Both the House and the Senate now have legislation in front of them that would guarantee the full funding of $900 million for LWCF each year and ensure the money will only be used as originally intended — for conservation and recreation projects that benefit our communities.

On the Senate side, Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner have both pledged their support by sponsoring this critical piece of legislation.

In the House, we commend our Congressman Joe Neguse, for continuing his already strong track record of leading the way in protecting our public lands by co-sponsoring HR 3195, the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act.

There are divisions and challenges in front of them.  But the effort to secure meaningful dedicated funding is worth every effort. 

The Land and Water Conservation fund is the best outdoor and economic ally this nation has ever had, all rolled into one, and while the last climb to the top could be a little steep, we trust that our Colorado representatives in Washington are familiar with mountains and up to the task.

Jack and Allison Hansell, owners of Mad Jack’s Mountain Brewery, have made their home in the U. S. 285 corridor, which hosts a series of quiet bedroom communities from Denver to Fairplay that are growing with the numerous popular tourist activities that the mountain area has to offer.