Coloradans have an ongoing love affair with the outdoors — and for good reason! With millions of acres of public lands on which to hike and bike, hunt and fish, paddle, ski, and climb, residents and visitors alike have almost endless opportunities to get outside and enjoy the good life that Colorado has to offer.
Recent projections predict that our 2019 ski season will end with 13.8 million skier days, and there are over a million hunters and anglers in our state. Colorado’s mountains, prairies, rivers, and lakes are important economic drivers for our booming outdoor recreation industry. When I was Governor, we created the Colorado Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, which found that the outdoor industry generates 511,000 jobs and contributes $62.5 billion to Colorado’s economy. It also generates $21.4 billion in wages and salaries, and $9.4 billion in local, state, and federal tax revenue.
But the outdoors are not simply about the economy. They are the lasting symbol of Colorado’s pioneering heritage and represent our ability and obligation to leave the world better off than we found it. Our lands are being affected by climate change, drought, habitat fragmentation, invasive species, and human development. Fish and wildlife habitats are being lost or degraded. Snowpack and the runoff of freshwater are expected to decline as a result of climate change. Increasing public recreation pressures are squeezing federal, state, and local budgets. And we too often sacrifice discipline and responsibility in our energy development on public lands.
We are at a unique and urgent moment in time for protecting these lands and waters, as our actions in the next decade will influence the trajectory of nature and people for decades to come. Consequently, we need to prioritize conservation now so that we can maintain our outdoor heritage and pass it along to future generations of Coloradans.
Here is my plan to protect our great outdoors:
My Plan for Enhancing America’s Outdoor Recreational Experiences
- Oppose the Selling Off of Federal Lands — Federal lands are places where we can enjoy the outdoors through a wide variety of activities, such as hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, boating, rafting, climbing, kayaking, biking, and skiing. The Trump Administration continues to diminish the federal lands estate, shrinking national monuments and repealing sensible protections for fish and wildlife habitats in National Forests and Bureau of Land Management lands. When I’m a U.S. Senator, I will fight any efforts to diminish the scope and quality of our land, water, and outdoor resources. I will convene local, state, and tribal leaders to engage with federal agencies in the decision-making processes that impact public lands.
- Address the Maintenance Backlog of the National Parks — Due to the lack of adequate investment by Congress, the maintenance backlog for the National Parks now stands at nearly $12 billion. This inaction on improving the safety and cleanliness of our parks is unfair to all of the Americans who visit our National Parks each year. Eliminating the backlog as soon as possible should be one of the Senate’s foremost priorities so that Coloradans can thoroughly enjoy their visits to our magnificent national parks and national monuments.
- Fully Fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) — This fund, established in 1964 and authorized at $900 million annually, has been fully funded only twice. The LWCF has broad support among environmentalists, conservationists, and outdoor sports and recreation communities. As Senator, I will push to fully fund the LWCF every year, and pledge to go even a step further: I will work with my colleagues in Congress to pass legislation that makes its funding automatic and not subject to the political gamesmanship and partisan bickering that we’ve seen under Senator Gardner and Senator McConnell.
- Expand Public Access to Federal Lands — Members of the public often don’t have sufficient access to federal lands. That is why I support dedicating 3% of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to be used each year to expand public access to federal lands and make exploring our great outdoor spaces even more fun and accessible. When I was Governor, we developed a “Colorado the Beautiful” plan to bring people closer than ever to the outdoors by mapping over 39,000 miles of trails across the state and placing them in a mobile app for easy exploring. In the Senate, I’ll make sure that federal agencies are working with local agencies and the outdoor sports and recreation industry to invest in innovative projects that increase access to and equity in the outdoors. By breaking down the barriers that prevent entry to the outdoors for communities of color and for low-income Coloradans, we can all share the amazing benefits of time spent exploring the landscapes that make our state unique.
My Plan for Promoting Colorado’s Outdoor Industry
Colorado is fortunate to be the home of numerous outdoor industries, the Outdoor Industry Association, and the annual Outdoor Retailer convention. These industries support the outdoor lifestyles of Coloradans and generate jobs and economic activity throughout our state. As Senator, I’ll push for the United States to bolster and diversify our rural economies by growing our outdoor sports and recreation industry. Equally important, numerous studies emphasize that increasing physical activity for our citizens would be one of the most effective investments we could make to reduce health-care costs.
- Pass the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act — The CORE Act was created by a broad cross-section of Coloradans and has the support of bipartisan elected officials from across the state, as well as business leaders, hunters, anglers, environmentalists, veterans, ranchers, conservationists, cyclists, hikers, and many others. Yet Senator Gardner has so far refused their pleas to support this much-needed bill. Despite the threat of a White House veto, I will stand strong with Senator Michael Bennet and Representative Joe Neguse to pass the CORE Act, which will preserve over 400,000 acres of public land, establish new wilderness areas, and honor our World War II veterans by protecting Camp Hale and designating it as a National Historic Landscape.
- End the Trade War — The current trade war is hurting Colorado’s outdoor businesses, as well as farmers and ranchers who depend on exports to sell their products. American consumers, businesses, and farmers are being caught in the crosshairs. This must end. The so-called 301 tariffs on outdoor products are not just raising the cost of goods made overseas; they also impact the parts of final products made domestically. In fact, they harm outdoor businesses that produce “Made in the USA” goods, potentially shifting their production overseas. I agree with Senator Jon Tester’s position that Congress should be empowered to weigh in on trade matters regardless of which party the president belongs to, so that we can ensure we are standing up for Colorado interests.
- Establish a National Recreation Office — Outdoor recreation has been shown to provide many economic benefits, as well as to boost mental and physical health. The United States should be doing all it can to educate and empower people to take advantage of the opportunities we have in this country. As part of my commitment to outdoor recreation, I established Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office in 2015. Fifteen states across the country have taken a similar step. As U.S. Senator, I will work to establish a federal Office of Outdoor Recreation, to be run jointly by the Departments of Commerce, Agriculture, and the Interior, as well as the White House Council on Environmental Quality, in order to promote outdoor recreation on federal lands, establish conservation and trade policies that grow the American outdoor industry, and provide matching funds to states that are inclined to establish their own outdoor recreation offices.
My Plan for Addressing Today’s Most Pressing Conservation Challenges
- Protect Colorado’s Rare and Endangered Species — Coloradans are fortunate to have the opportunity to enjoy the abundant wildlife that lives in and migrates through our state. But today, many species in Colorado are in trouble. I support the work of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Fish and Wildlife Resources, which recommends that Congress provide additional funding to states to conserve habitats for non-game species. As a result of the panel’s excellent work, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act has been introduced into Congress. With efforts like this, states like Colorado can gain the resources necessary to start to make the investments needed to conserve their non-game species.
- Secure Funding for National Fish Habitat Plans — Many Coloradans enjoy fishing our state’s magnificent lakes, rivers and streams every year. In addition to enriching our quality of life, this activity generates millions of dollars in revenue each year, creating jobs in Colorado and across the country. Yet we do not always take sufficient care of our fisheries, which jeopardizes recreational angling and the jobs that come with them. The National Fish Habitat Action Plan was established in 2006 from the National Fish Habitat Partnership to begin to address this problem. Since then, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has provided $19 million to support hundreds of on-the-ground projects. But much more needs to be done. I will support the bipartisan National Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnerships Act and make federal funding available to keep our fishing traditions alive.
- Support Efforts to Improve the Climate Resilience of America’s Landscape — Maintaining the capacity of Colorado’s lands to provide for robust and diverse populations of fish and wildlife in the face of climate change and other threats will require investments to conserve and enhance millions of acres. We must support the conservation of large, unbroken blocks of high-quality habitat across vast landscapes. I will help to lead the fight in Congress to fund state-level climate change resilience-related landscape-scale conservation efforts. Moreover, because of the importance of local input to make progress on this issue, I will work to ensure that our federal and local agencies are coordinating on the implementation of these smart investments.
- Support State and Federal Efforts to Map and Conserve Wildlife Corridors — Wildlife corridors support healthy populations of migrating wildlife, both now and in the future — even as climate change shifts their habitats. But conserving migration corridors will require resources. I intend to make those resources available by increasing funding for the Agricultural Conservation Easement and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Conservation Easement Programs. In addition, I will work with my colleagues in the Senate to pass federal highway legislation that makes a meaningful investment in these projects.