Conservation Colorado: A bold, achievable path to protecting Colorado’s land and water

Kelly Nordini
Special to the Daily
Kelly Nordini

Colorado is losing its most iconic asset: nature. The outdoors have always been central to our state’s identity. And today, as Coloradans escape the dangers of COVID-19 by heading to community parks, wilderness areas, and everything in between, it is clear that we must act decisively to protect our lands and water.

Thankfully, there is an emerging, science-based international goal — the “Global Deal for Nature” — that humanity should strive for. We must conserve half of the lands, waters, and oceans of Earth by 2050 to address the climate and nature crises, slow the rate of extinction, and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. To deliver on this deal, we must accelerate the pace and scale of conservation by protecting at least 30 percent of the planet by 2030.

New research from Conservation Colorado and Western Resource Advocates reveals attainable and realistic policy solutions that will help Colorado lead the way in meeting this bold and achievable goal. It shows that we can conserve 30 percent of its lands, or 20 million total acres, by 2030 — and the only caveat is that we must start immediately.

Achieving the 30×30 goal will require concerted administrative and legislative action at the federal, state, and local levels.

Bold action starts with concrete goals. That’s why President Biden showed strong climate leadership and signed an executive order to establish a national goal of conserving at least 30 percent of the land and water of the United States by 2030. Members in both chambers — and both parties —should work to bring this goal to fruition.

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At the state level, 30×30 is only possible if Colorado’s elected leaders wholeheartedly commit to this effort. Conservation Colorado and Western Resource Advocates’ new report details the many ways that our state can advance the 30×30 vision.

For starters, Colorado Parks and Wildlife should build off the establishment of Fishers Peak State Park and the new State Park nomination process by setting an ambitious vision and numeric goal for the designation of new parks. To support this goal, the legislature should act on Gov. Jared Polis’ proposed budget and prioritize funding for State Parks, water, and wildlife conservation, as well as policies to expand opportunities and access to the outdoors for nature-deprived communities. Leadership starts here at home, and we must do our part to protect what we love about Colorado for future generations.

Finally, we should take immediate steps to pass bipartisan public lands legislation like the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act. This popular bill, which will protect approximately 400,000 acres of public lands in our state, was crafted with collaboration from local elected officials, local businesses, recreation groups, sportsmen and women, and conservationists over the past decade.

It will protect about 73,000 acres of new wilderness areas, nearly 80,000 acres are new recreation and conservation management areas, and includes a first-of-its-kind National Historic Landscape at Camp Hale to honor Colorado’s 10th Mountain Division. This is common-sense legislation that Coloradans expect their leaders to champion and should be passed as soon as possible.

Protecting 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030 is an ambitious goal, but it is one that nearly three-quarters of Coloradans support. Achieving it will mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, conserve nature and wildlife, connect people, protect our economy, increase our food and water security, and safeguard Coloradans’ quality of life for generations to come. In short, it is one of our most effective tools for protecting this state that we love.

Colorado is nationally known for our leadership role when it comes to environmental policies. From climate action to the Colorado Roadless Rule, we have always been an innovator. Now, we must lead the way to end the loss of nature, close the “nature gap,” and build a movement to meet the vision of protecting 30 percent of our land and water here at home.

Kelly Nordini is executive director of Conservation Colorado, the state’s largest environmental advocacy organization.

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