To our next governor: A note about water and its importance to Colorado’s economy (column) | VailDaily.com

To our next governor: A note about water and its importance to Colorado’s economy (column)

Carlos Fernandez, Johnny Land LeCoq and Drew Peternell
Valley Voices

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

Dear Jared Polis and Walker Stapleton: Congratulations on your primary wins, and good luck as you enter the final stretch of your campaigns. While you venture throughout the state, we have a request: Stop.

Don't stop campaigning. Stop and look around. Take the time to enjoy the vast array of natural resources that make Colorado such an amazing place to live, work and play.

Colorado is known for its commitment to protecting the state's natural beauty and western character. Colorado's enthusiasm for the outdoors is why outdoor recreation is a $28 billion industry here and why the Outdoor Industry Association moved its retailer show to Denver. Coloradans understand that protecting our special landscapes is critical to the preservation of our way of life.

Water is the critical ingredient. It fuels our cities, agriculture and industry and supports a robust recreation industry on our ski slopes in the winter and in our rivers in the summer. We appreciate water even more this year, as drought stresses Colorado's farmers and businesses, and our public lands managers are forced to take even more drastic steps to protect against and respond to catastrophic wildfires such as the Spring Creek fire in the San Luis Valley and the 416 fire in the San Juan Mountains near Durango.

As you heard about at the Colorado Water Congress Summer Conference, our state's continued success depends on the reliability of our water supplies.

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Past governors have taken innovative steps to advance conservation in Colorado. For example, in 1990, Gov. Roy Romer created the Great Outdoors Colorado citizen committee to ensure that Colorado's natural resources, parks and trails, wildlife and access to the outdoors wouldn't be sacrificed as Colorado's population grew. In 1992, Colorado's voters established the Colorado Conservation Trust Fund to protect and enhance these values without slowing down Colorado's ability to flourish economically.

GOCO has been an enormous success. Since its inception 25 years ago, more than 1 million acres of land have been conserved, more than 1,600 community parks and recreation areas have been created and improved and 9,200 people have been employed through the Colorado Youth Corps Association.

The Colorado Water Plan is another example of Colorado governors' forward thinking to address conservation needs. In 2013, Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an executive order that the state create its first water plan to address water needs as population grows. This plan was then developed through the seven basin roundtables created during the administration of Gov. Bill Owens.

The plan outlines a balanced path forward to ensure that Colorado's rivers continue to flow and that our cities and industries can count on the water supplies they need to thrive, even as our population grows and we face worsening droughts and climate change.

In order to implement the plan, however, investment is necessary. Protecting our rivers, restoring our forested watersheds, helping our cities conserve more water and improving the efficiency of farms and ranches will not be possible without state funding. Much like Coloradans came together in 1992 to invest in our open landscapes, parks and trails through GOCO, we now need to invest in our rivers and streams.

The 30,000 public comments submitted by Coloradans across the state to support the creation of the water plan show that the public will be on your side in this endeavor.

To maintain our Colorado way of life, you must, as our next governor, embrace and support implementation of the Colorado Water Plan and funding to support it. Not only does Colorado's burgeoning outdoor recreation economy depend upon it, but every person and industry in Colorado deserves secure water supplies.

Colorado today and the Coloradans of tomorrow will thank you for it.

Carlos Fernandez is the Colorado state director for The Nature Conservancy, Johnny Land LeCoq is founder and CEO of Fishpond, and Drew Peternell is director of the Trout Unlimited Colorado Water Program.

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