Colorado Citizens and Officials Urge Protection of our great outdoors

Photo: Dolores River in Colorado. Photo courtesy of the BLM.

More than 500 Coloradoans turned out in Denver and 250 in Grand Junction to voice their hopes and ideas for the future of conservation in the United States at America’s Great Outdoors listening sessions with officials from the Obama administration, members of Colorado’s congressional delegation, and local community leaders. The public gatherings were part of a nationwide tour gathering ideas and stories of best practices, innovative collaborations, and models for preserving the nation’s public and private natural lands.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and representatives from the United States Department of Interior (DOI), Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) heard ideas from diverse stakeholders ranging from landowners and sportsmen to conservationists and recreation enthusiasts. Sec. Salazar (a former Senator from Colorado) proposed using Great Outdoors Colorado, an initiative adopted by Colorado voters to preserve the state’s outdoor treasures as one model for the future of conservation.

Among the topics discussed were full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), protecting the Dolores River Basin, a second omnibus public lands bill and enhancing the quality of life for Coloradoans.

Diverse organizations and individuals united to advocate for protection of large landscapes, including Colorado’s healthy wildlands and rivers, connecting them with working forest and ranch lands, private lands and the connections across these large areas.

Conservationists, recreation groups, sportsmen, and many others who value Colorado’s spectacular wildlands urged the administration to protect Colorado’s valuable natural areas including:

The San Miguel River corridor- This river corridor not only provides stunning natural scenery, it also supports a healthy and diverse ecosystem that provides treasured open space and valuable wildlife habitat.

• Western Colorado’s Gateway area- This redrock valley draws diverse recreational use and creates an ecological bridge between river canyons and tributaries and verdant forests, and includes the towering cliffs of the Palisade.

Wildlands of the Arkansas River Watershed- These ecologically rich, lower elevation lands provide essential habitat, protect major water supplies, and provide quiet recreation opportunities for two million people living nearby.

We also hope the administration will take this opportunity to reaffirm and implement BLM’s authority to establish Wilderness Study Areas. This effort should include giving the BLM the authority to establish new Wilderness Study Areas and to protect the wilderness characteristics of those areas. Hundreds of thousands of acres of land across the West that were identified by citizens and BLM as worthy of wilderness designation have been leased for oil and gas development and opened to cross-country motorized vehicle use, and they deserve real protection before they are lost forever.

You can urge the Obama Administration to protect Colorado’s public lands here: http://www.doi.gov/americasgreatoutdoors/

 Photo: Dolores River in Colorado. Photo courtesy of the BLM.

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