Guest commentary: Cory Gardner needs to lead Republican charge for public lands | AspenTimes.com

Guest commentary: Cory Gardner needs to lead Republican charge for public lands

Layne Rigney
Guest Commentary

At Osprey — a leading manufacturer of outdoor gear, employing more than 115 people in the United State — we believe that adventure is open to everyone. Nowhere does that feel more true than in Colorado, which our company has called home for almost 30 years.

We just returned to Cortez after attending the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Denver, where Colorado's strength as a powerhouse among the $887 billion outdoor industry was on full display. As evidenced by the hundreds of retailers, outfitters and manufacturers we saw at OR that choose to base their businesses in Colorado, our state's thriving outdoor recreation industry continues to attract and sustain employers and their families.

Outdoor recreation thrives in Colorado because of our incredible public lands.

The spectacular places near our headquarters in Cortez — places like Mesa Verde National Park, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail — inspire our employees and their families every day, and were an important part of the reason we chose to locate there.

Something that all of those places have in common? They were protected by the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

One of our country's most important conservation programs, LWCF, has invested $268 million in the past 50 years to protect, improve and expand Colorado's open spaces, public lands, parks and outdoor recreational areas. It even supports voluntary conservation of private lands, and enjoys immense bipartisan support.

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Yet, despite its unarguably good impacts, this landmark program is set to expire in less than two short months, on Sept. 30.

In July, Sens. Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet took the lead to permanently reauthorize LWCF. We applaud. Gardner and Bennet for standing with outdoor recreationists, with those who care about nature, those who want to see wildlife, open spaces and history preserved, and with business owners like us who rely on these consumers and visitors.

But, in much the same way that Coloradans are leading the outdoor industry, we urge Gardner to show leadership within the Republican party to protect public lands. Republicans should demonstrate their pro-business and pro-sportsmen policies by supporting LWCF.

As business leaders and Coloradans, we ask Gardner to actively encourage his colleagues to support his amendment and to continue pushing for the permanent reauthorization and full funding of this critical tool for conservation.

There are only a few weeks left to save LWCF. Sen. Gardner, the time to act is now.

Layne Rigney is the president of Osprey Packs Inc.