May 19, 2017 – Eric Galatas, Public News Service (CO)
|Colorado throws a statewide party on Saturday to celebrate publicly-owned lands. (Wikimedia Commons)|
DENVER – Colorado is the first state in the nation to establish a holiday recognizing the value of public lands, and kicks off its inaugural celebration on Saturday with events across the state. There’s an Elephant Revival concert, trail cleanups, and eight special beers from local breweries will be tapped – each honoring special tracts of land owned by all Americans.
Aaron Kindle, western sportsmen manager with the National Wildlife Federation says most Coloradans can look out their window and see public lands that are used for hiking, fishing, hunting and more.
“There are millions of dollars generated from those lands, there are lots of businesses that are born of public lands that wouldn’t exist without public lands,” he says. “It’s so woven into the fabric of our Colorado lifestyle, it’s kind of surprising we don’t celebrate it more.”
The debate over public lands is back in the spotlight after President Donald Trump ordered a review of all National Monuments over 100,000 acres in size designated in the past two decades, including Colorado’s Canyon of the Ancients.
Some Colorado politicians who want to see lands transferred to states only supported creating the holiday to draw attention to what they say is bad federal management. Conservation groups worry that handing federal lands over to states would open the door for selling off pristine areas and lead to increased extraction activities.
And Kindle points out that preserving public lands protects the outdoor recreation industry, which generates $887 billion in consumer spending annually and supports more than seven million jobs.
“True we need mining, we need grazing, we need all these other things,” he adds. “A lot of those industries are temporary. That’s not the case if you have a core area that can always drive the economy so long as that area is there and intact.”
The bill to honor Colorado’s public lands eventually passed with bipartisan support and was signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2016. Colorado Public Lands Day is the third Saturday in May each year.