Across the West and in Colorado, a dangerous movement of radical fringe groups and oil, mining and other development interests are buying off politicians to “transfer” America’s federal wildlands to the states where they can be sold to private companies for profit. We are committed to stopping this and keeping #OurWild public for all.
Some land seizure attempts in Colorado have targeted national monuments, like Browns Canyon National Monument (above). Image by Arkansas Valley Digital Imaging.
Special interests have been lobbying state governments and Congress to seize America’s public lands so they can be privatized or auctioned for drilling, mining and logging. In Colorado this could mean seizure and sale of beloved recreation lands in places like Vermillion Basin, the Roan Plateau, the Grand Mesa, or even Browns Canyon. What would happen to Our Wild? Read on to find out.
Reasons for Americans to fight against land takeovers in Colorado and keep #OurWild public
1) Regular people will be locked out of beloved lands: More than one-third of Colorado is public land, and that includes some of the wildest places left in the country, as well as spots that are prized for outdoor recreation, like Browns Canyon National Monument. These lands are currently open for camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, biking, off-road riding and other multiple uses. If they are sold or leased, everyday Americans will be locked out.
2) It's out of touch with Coloradans: Many people live in Colorado because of the freedom to access Our Wild. Out-of-state, corporate interests who want to line their pockets are out of touch with local values. Coloradans treasure these lands because they contribute to healthy communities, protect our natural environment, attract businesses and talent, and provide endless outdoor recreation opportunities. In fact:
84% of Coloradans say that the ability to live near and recreate on public lands like national parks and forests is a factor in their decision to live in the West
98% of Coloradans say that public lands are an "essential" part of the state's economy
59% of Coloradans oppose state government taking control of national public lands
72% of Coloradans view public lands managed by federal agencies as “American places belonging to everyone in the nation”
Outdoor recreation generates over 125,000 homegrown Colorado jobs and $13.2 billion in consumer spending in the state
The public access provided by shared national lands will be lost if our forests, refuges and recreation areas are sold and privatized, threatening the Colorado way of life. Transferring control of Our Wild is not in the interest of Colorado, its people, or its economy.
3) Colorado leaders and institutions are against it: In addition to being out of touch with what everyday Coloradans want, many of the state's leaders, major advocacy groups and public institutions are against such takeovers. For instance, Governor John Hickenlooper has noted the damaging costs of potential land takeover schemes. The Colorado Wildlife Federation and state branches of groups like Trout Unlimited and Backcountry Hunters & Anglers have opposed state seizure of public lands, and The Denver Post, Durango Herald and Grand Junction Sentinel have editorialized against it.
4) Lands that were once used for hiking, hunting and fishing may be sold: State trust land in Colorado is mostly leased for agriculture, energy or commercial use, and not usually open for recreation. In fact, Colorado has sold off millions of acres of state trust land since its founding, and would likely be forced to again if suddenly tasked with managing millions more acres of once-federally administered land. Already, Colorado has less recreational access to state trust land than most other western states, with just 1 in 5 acres open for wildlife viewing.
5) State land takeover efforts are a guise for a larger movement to privatize wildlands: Multiple bills have been introduced by anti-conservation politicians in Colorado that would move the state toward seizure of national public lands. Some of this legislation has included one-sided taxpayer-funded “studies” to attempt to justify taking over public lands or muddled assertions of jurisdiction over our shared parks, forests and refuges in Colorado. The most absurd proposal purported to demand that the federal government turn over extremely broadly defined “agricultural lands” to the state. As in other states, many of these legislative efforts tie back to campaigns by billionaires like the Koch brothers and mining and oil interests who would like to develop the land.
6) Land takeovers will create a huge financial burden that Colorado cannot manage: Revenues from sold-off public lands would do little to offset the millions of dollars needed by Colorado for land management expenses, including wildfire fighting. In the event that all U.S. public land in Colorado were ceded to the state, Colorado could lose up to $250 million in existing land management investments and related payments. This is more than the state invests in its entire Department of Natural Resources. This economic burden would likely result in the sale of lands to balance budgets.
7) Firefighting efforts undermined: Colorado depends on federal firefighters to control wildfires within the state. By seizing federal lands, Colorado would be responsible for the duties of public land managers. This includes providing enough staff and equipment to combat wildfires. Wildland firefighting costs last year topped $2 billion across the country, and in the 2012 wildfire season alone, fighting wildfire cost $92 million in Colorado. By contrast, Colorado’s budget for the state Wildland Fire Management Service is only about $27 million. One bad fire year could decimate state budgets.
Sportsmen, business leaders, rational elected officials and conservationists are standing together to prevent land seizure measures from becoming law. But they need support to show politicians that Americans won’t tolerate efforts to privatize Our Wild in Colorado or elsewhere. The threat is real, and now is the time to stand up.
INFOGRAPHIC: COLORADO WANTS PUBLIC LANDS TO STAY PUBLIC