State Senators: Celebrate Colorado Public Lands Day on Saturday, May 19 (column) | VailDaily.com

State Senators: Celebrate Colorado Public Lands Day on Saturday, May 19 (column)

Leroy Garcia and Kerry Donovan
Valley Voices

Saturday, May 19, is Colorado Public Lands Day — a holiday to celebrate the parks, forests, wildlife refuges and open spaces that make Colorado a great place to live.

You can see it in the numbers. More than 90 percent of residents listed clean air, clean water and the environment as reasons for living in Colorado in the 2017 Conservation in the West poll. Outdoor recreation in Colorado generates $28 billion per year and supports 229,000 direct jobs, according to the latest report from Outdoor Industry Association.

More than in numbers, you can see the love for public lands in our communities. When trailheads are bustling hubs every weekend, local parks buzz with energy and thrill-seekers and families alike head out for weekend adventures, that's when you can tell people here love our public lands.

That's why two years ago we proposed and passed legislation to create Colorado Public Lands Day every year on the third Saturday in May to celebrate our public lands and recognize their central importance to our state — the first in the nation to do so.

But as Coloradans continue to celebrate and advocate for protecting public lands, there's a different story unfolding at the national level. The administration in Washington, D.C., continues to threaten our natural heritage by increasing drilling and mining, shrinking protected areas such as national monuments and ignoring local community members and stakeholders in order to hand out favors to their friends in big industry.

Now more than ever, Colorado's passion to protect public lands is a crucial piece of the movement to protect our future.

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Most of our colleagues in the Colorado Senate agree. At this year's recently concluded session, we both supported two bills that became laws to protect funding for public lands here in Colorado. We reauthorized the state lottery, which funds Great Outdoors Colorado to protect and enhance Colorado's wildlife, parks, rivers, trails and open spaces in all 64 counties in Colorado. We also passed the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Future Generations Act, to make sure our state parks and wildlife stewardship are fiscally sustainable.

These are big victories for Colorado's public lands, and they provide important investments in our state's great outdoors. Our commitment to public lands demands real and concrete actions.

But the fight is not over. Colorado is a leader on our innovative public lands policies, and we need to continue to lead and show that we will stand up for our public lands.

Colorado Public Lands Day, on Saturday, May 19, is a good way to take that stand. So get out there and enjoy our great outdoors on Saturday — and better yet, bring someone new with you. Just remember that our public lands need you. They need you to be an advocate, a steward and, most importantly, an ally.

State Sen. Leroy Garcia represents District 3 in Pueblo and State Sen. Kerry Donovan represents District 5 on the Western Slope.