Bennet and Polis: Outdoor Retailer Summer Market a reminder that Colorado leads on public lands (column) | VailDaily.com

Bennet and Polis: Outdoor Retailer Summer Market a reminder that Colorado leads on public lands (column)

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis
Valley Voices

In Colorado, we bring together a diverse group of voices to help protect public lands. Those voices include community leaders, businesses and outdoor enthusiasts — many of whom have traveled to Colorado this week for the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market.

In fact, this approach is what drove Outdoor Retailer to Colorado in the first place. Over the past year and a half, Colorado has led the way to defend our national monuments, work with tribal nations and incorporate local input to build consensus around public lands. We were also the first state to adopt an annual Public Lands Day holiday.

This is our legacy of public lands we must pass on to future generations. To do that, we've worked with local communities for years to preserve the forests and mountains that draw so many to our state. The result is the bill we introduced earlier this year: The Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act.

Our bill would protect nearly 100,000 acres of recreation, wilderness, wildlife and conservation areas along the Continental Divide in the White River National Forest — the most visited national forest in the country.

We worked with local outdoorsmen and business owners to safeguard key watersheds for trout fishing and clean drinking water, valleys for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling and trails for world-class mountain biking, hiking and hunting.

We also proposed something entirely new: a National Historic Landscape designation for more than 28,000 acres surrounding Camp Hale. During World War II, the 10th Mountain Division trained at Camp Hale before leading our nation to victory overseas. Those veterans returned to develop the ski areas and businesses at the foundation of our modern outdoor industry. This first-of-its-kind designation would preserve the storied legacy of the 10th Mountain Division and ensure that our children and grandchildren can ski and hike near Camp Hale for years to come.

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The Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act sends a message to Washington that Coloradans — from hikers to business owners to veterans — are united behind protecting public lands. We can think of no better message to send as we welcome the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market to our Centennial State.

Michael Bennet, Colorado's senior U.S. Senator, serves as ranking member of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry and Natural Resources. First elected to represent Colorado's 2nd Congressional District in 2008; U.S. Rep Jared Polis serves on the Committee on Rules, the Committee on Education and the Workforce and the Committee on Ethics.