Letter: Encourage Congress to protect our public lands and their economic benefit | VailDaily.com

Letter: Encourage Congress to protect our public lands and their economic benefit

Editor's note: Find a cited version of this letter at http://www.vaildaily.com.

Last week, I visited Washington, D.C., and was happily surprised by the positive attitudes and hard work I encountered in the offices of the House and Senate. I was part of a contingent of Great Old Broads for Wilderness advocating for conserving our public lands and protecting environmental laws. I visited all of Colorado's Senate and House offices and met with diligent staff members in each.

Here in Colorado, our public lands are a deep source for recreation, from skiing and climbing to rafting and hunting, and they contribute $28 billion annually to our economy. However, our public lands are currently under attack, as are fundamental environmental protections such as the Antiquities Act, Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and the Endangered Species Act. I heard from one office that this administration "is not interested in protecting even one more acre of federal land."

This position is dangerous for Colorado. The outdoor recreation industry accounts for $887 billion and 7.6 million jobs nationwide. Colorado's share of the industry grows as more people move here for exactly what our protected public lands provide: clean air and water, iconic landscapes and countless opportunities to recreate and connect with the natural world.

The outdoor retail industry powerfully endorsed Colorado's value of protecting public lands when it moved its giant Outdoor Retailer shows from Salt Lake City to Denver. This will provide a $20 million boon to our yearly economy. The trade organization chose Denver "because the state of Colorado shares the industry's passion for outdoor recreation and preserving public lands."

As a wilderness advocate and a nature-based personal coach, I am proud of our state's track record of protecting public land for future generations to enjoy. Most recently, the proposed Continental Divide Wilderness & Recreation Act would protect nearly 60,000 acres in Eagle and Summit counties. The environmental, economic and human benefits defy quantification.

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Exercising democracy's core value of citizen participation gave me new hope that our country will rise above current challenges, including attacks on fundamental human rights such as having clean water and clean air, which our protected public lands help ensure.

Citizen involvement has never been more important than it is today. Please take a moment to contact your Congressional representatives and tell them you support keeping federal lands in the national trust and upholding the Antiquities Act. Urge them not to vote for any bill that would gut the Endangered Species Act, Clean Air Act or Clean Water Act. Ask them instead to lead a defense of these fundamental laws that ensure a healthy, whole and nature-connected future for generations to come. And thank them for supporting the Continental Divide Wilderness & Recreation Act.

Susie Kincade

Eagle County wilderness advocate