Kerry Donovan: Our Colorado | AspenTimes.com

Kerry Donovan: Our Colorado

Kerry Donovan
Guest column

I feel so fortunate to have grown up in Colorado. I spent my summers hiking in national forests and my winters skiing in them. I went Jeeping with my grandfather to explore the canyons and mountains that dot our beautiful state.

Every fall, the family loaded up the mules and escaped the comforts of our modern world for a week of hunting elk. I chased grasshoppers as my dad wished for the trout to bite. I slept under the stars countless nights on a Bureau of Land Management back road or in a subalpine mountain meadow. I watched the sun rise over the prairie, where you couldn't tell the pink tan of morning from the land I walked on. All of these experiences are thanks to the public lands that shape the Colorado I know and love.

Public lands aren't only an enormous contributing factor to our $18 billion tourism budget, but they shape our quality of life and why we all choose to live in Colorado. Public lands lift up vibrant and bustling rural small businesses while giving every citizen the chance to enjoy great American traditions from hunting and fishing to hiking and rafting.

While some argue that we should cut up our public lands and sell them off to the highest bidder, I'm so proud to fight for the state to instead recognize a Public Lands Day, which "designates the fourth Monday in March as Public Lands Day to recognize the significant contributions that national public lands within Colorado make to wildlife, recreation, the economy and to Coloradans' quality of life."

This is an idea every Coloradan can get behind, no matter your political affiliation. In fact, recent surveys done by the Outdoor Industry Association and Colorado College found that an overwhelming majority of Coloradans from both major parties support maintaining protections for our public lands. This uniquely America idea, that lands should be set aside to not belong to one person but instead the collective good, is a foundational feature of our state.

We also should remember how important public lands are to the economy of our state. Communities across Colorado depend on mineral or gas extraction, grazing permits or timber sales. These, too, are uses of our public lands. Communities rely on access to rivers and mountain-bike trails to build a thriving summer tourism economy. Public lands support our quality of life and our state's economy — we would be a different state without them.

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I'm a proud Colorado native for many reasons. But every time I look out my window and I see the mountains, I am particularly filled with pride and reminded how lucky I am to live here. I hope I have your support in creating our own Public Lands Day to pay tribute to our lands and to champion the American ideal of access to our beautiful lands for all.

Kerry Donovan is the State Senator for Senate District 5. She represents Chaffee, Delta, Eagle, Gunnison, Hinson, Lake and Pitkin counties.

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