Since the days my grandpa took me fishing in the Fairplay —before I could even walk—I have been in love with the outdoors. That connection to the wild, the openness, the escape from the concrete jungle; it’s one of the most important things we can do to feel human. My hunting buddies and I always joke with each other that tourists will pay thousands of dollars to experience just one week in the same wilderness we all enjoy right here in our backyard.
From the streams of Upper Red Canyon, to the cliffs of Badger Creek, to the trails in Deer Haven Park, to the breathtaking views of Pikes Peak; these lands offer endless opportunities for solitude and unconfined recreation. Many of these places are public lands and, not only do they contribute to making our state special, they make economic sense.
The Coloradans who flock to Colorado to hike or camp in Cucharas Canyon, or mountain bike in the Gold Belt Region support locally-owned hotels, restaurants, shops, and recreation companies. These locally-owned businesses, and the thousands of jobs they provide to Coloradans, depend on access to the cherished mountain ranges, woodlands, prairies, and streams on public lands. In fact, a 2016 report by the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation in Colorado produces $994 million in state and local tax revenue and is responsible for 125,000 jobs.
Another component many of these special places in Colorado have in common is that they are contained within the area covered by the Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The job of this agency is to be a responsible steward of public lands and to periodically update their specific land management plans.
The BLM’s Royal Gorge Field Office is currently in the process of updating the Resource Management Plan for over 668,000 acres of public land right in our backyard. The decisions they make will have repercussions for generations.
As an avid hunter, hiker, camping and 4×4 off-road enthusiast, I am a strong believer in a balanced approach to the continued management of these lands in the BLM’s Resource Management Plan revision. While I enjoy four-wheeling on public lands, certain wild places of critical ecological and economic importance to local communities need to be set aside and protected for wildlife and quiet uses like hunting, hiking, and fishing. Future generations need to be able to enjoy the same lands we enjoy. Sportsmen, backpackers, and the outdoor industry all benefit from a balanced approach to conservation.
It is crucial that the public weighs in and provides input during the revision process. The BLM has another week to consider public comments in their management plan revisions and now is the time for them to hear from us before their drafts are finalized.
What we have in Colorado is one of the most unique landscapes in the country and it stimulates economic activity that we rely upon. Eroding these protections will permanently damage the places that make Colorado such a great place to live. That is why I would like to see the revised management plan strike a balance among all the uses of public lands including development, conservation, and recreation.
William Neidig is a business owner and hunter from Broomfield, CO.