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Opinion: Protect our outdoor recreation economy by banning speculative oil and gas leasing on public lands

As the founder and co-owner of Revel Bikes and Why Cycles, I have seen firsthand how important outdoor recreation on public lands is to Colorado’s economy and its residents’ way of life.

I also know that our current leasing system prioritizes oil and gas company profits over maximizing benefits to the public. 

Public Land Solutions (PLS) recently released a report that highlights this issue and the impacts of speculative oil and gas leasing on Western communities — including Fruita, Colorado, one of our favorite places to test our products and bring members of the international outdoor and bike media to try our bikes.

Adam Miller

Outdoor business leaders recognize that the findings of this report are deeply concerning and that we urgently need reform. 

PLS’ report shows that the problem of speculative leasing on lands with little potential for energy development is widespread. More than 90% of public lands managed by BLM are open to oil and gas leasing, and only half of the 26 million acres leased for oil and gas development are actually producing oil or gas.

These public lands should be actively used for other activities that boost local economies, including hunting and fishing, tourism and outdoor recreation. 

I moved my business from Utah to Carbondale three years ago largely in part due to the incredible access to public lands and the general attitude and policies that prioritize public lands and outdoor recreation.

It made financial sense to run my business here in Carbondale because we design and sell products specifically to be used in the outdoors.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

In Colorado, outdoor recreation is a $28 billion industry that directly generates 229,000 jobs and has become an intrinsic value among Coloradans, with over 70% of residents participating in outdoor recreation each year.

However, this booming economic sector, which generates $887 billion in national consumer spending annually, is threatened by the Trump administration’s public lands agenda, which has exacerbated speculative oil and gas leasing on public lands that have little to no drilling potential.

Places like Fruita are perfect examples of how speculative leasing threatens local economies. Mountain bikers invested in building a world-famous trail system throughout the area to draw visitors and revitalize the once-empty downtown, and speculative leasing would endanger this progress. 

The appalling practice of speculative oil and gas leasing wastes finite government resources, generates little revenue for American taxpayers and tosses to the side activities like hunting and fishing, tourism, and outdoor recreation, all of which local communities in Colorado and across the West rely on.

The Trump administration’s clear preference of oil and gas companies over the American people can no longer be ignored as they take advantage of this decades-old system.

Speculative oil and gas leasing hurt not only our wallets, but it also serves as a major threat to our wildlife and beautiful natural landmarks that attract visitors to Colorado.

The land that is available for speculative leasing includes public lands surrounding dozens of national parks in the West, where drilling potential is virtually non-existent, but the value for recreation, tourism and wildlife is sky high.

Colorado’s very own Great Sand Dunes National Park was among the many special places that the Trump administration attempted to lease out to oil and gas companies, even though those lands have low-to-non-existent drilling potential.

Each year, Great Sand Dunes draws more than half a million visitors, who spend time exploring the park and surrounding public lands and communities which ultimately contributes to local economic growth and prosperity. 

This is why I am thankful that U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada, recently introduced legislation that would help support Colorado’s booming outdoor recreation economy by putting an end to the irresponsible and widespread practice of speculative oil and gas leasing on public lands. 

Putting an end to speculative oil and gas leasing would promote more outdoor recreation and mountain biking on public lands, which my business relies on to survive. Coloradans must acknowledge and call out the dangers of speculative leasing. 

I urge fellow Western business owners and our senators — Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet — to recognize the threats we face in Colorado and support Sen. Cortez Masto’s legislation.

Doing so will bolster Colorado’s multibillion-dollar outdoor recreation economy and end speculative oil and gas leasing on public lands once and for all.

Adam Miller is a founder and co-owner of Revel Bikes and Why Cycles. 


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