Letter: Support a bill for public land
On Wednesday, our State Senator Kerry Donovan is introducing a bill in the state Senate calling for the fourth Monday in March to be known as Public Lands Day to recognize the significant contributions that national public lands in Colorado make to our daily lives. This celebratory declaration would be revenue-neutral and wouldn’t close any state offices.
The proposed bill comes against a backdrop of unprecedented threats to our federal public lands, from a goofy, misguided armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon to an industry-funded, “astro-turfed” political movement to spend public taxpayer funds to study the transfer of federal lands to the states. State ownership is one step away from either industry giveaways or outright sales to private interests. If you doubt this, just visit the Utah state lands’ webpage for state land-sales information. As one recent editorial in Nebraska put it, “Make no mistake: When the GOP talks about ‘federal land,’ they are talking about land owned by the American people. And when they talk about eliminating ‘government restrictions’ on that land, they are really talking about stripping away protection from the commercial exploitation of that land.”
It is worth remembering why we live here in Colorado, why our economy is so strong, why our quality of life is so high. If you live in Colorado, you probably are a hiker, a biker, a climber, a skier, a photographer, a
rafter, a kayaker, a hunter or fisherman, or you enjoy outdoor activities, the majority of which take place on federal public lands. You might not be a rancher, farmer or an irrigator, but you too benefit from the clean waters that originate in our headwaters on public lands.
Our tourist visitors come here, season in and season out, year after year, for activities on our magnificent public lands. These lands are our own golden goose and only the very foolish or gullible would put them at risk.
I believe that misreading our collective love of our public lands is one of the biggest political blunders underway. Local county commissioners should not spend public funds to support this land-transfer movement. It may be politically easy to rail against the government, to run against federal control from Washington, but turning that political rhetoric against our public ownership of lands might be more difficult. We shall see.
The Public Lands Day bill will be introduced in front of the Military and State Affairs committee, which makes me want to ask the committee members what they would say to our returning veterans. Would they say, “Sorry, but while you were gone we transferred your public lands to the highest bidder”? What exactly are our veterans fighting for, but for the right to know their homeland is safe and available for all of us?
I support our public lands and I support this Public Lands Day bill that Kerry Donovan is introducing. I hope you do, as well.