By Tyler Baskfield, TU Colorado sportsmen’s coordinator South Park is a sportsmen’s paradise of elk herds, dream trout streams like the South Platte, and endless recreation possibilities. For Colorado Front Range residents like me, South Park is a vast backyard playground, just a short hour and a half drive from Denver. It’s one of the crown jewels of public lands in Colorado.
Unfortunately, it’s also currently in the crosshairs of shortsighted partisan politics.
Sportsmen everywhere should be alarmed by an effort afoot in Congress to roll back the public’s say in managing South Park and other public lands. Now is the time to speak up if we want to protect these special places.
A critical vote is expected in the Senate in coming weeks that may eliminate the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Planning 2.0 initiative through the Congressional Review Act. The House has already voted to repeal the BLM planning rule.
This misguided move to repeal Planning 2.0 is a thumb in the eye of sportsmen and others who believe local residents and governments should have more of a say in how public lands are managed. The BLM developed Planning 2.0 in response to concerns about the lack of transparency in public lands management and the planning process being unduly influenced by special interest stakeholders. Planning 2.0 gives sportsmen, local governments, landowners and residents more input early on in the planning process—and this “smart from the start” approach helps to avoid conflict by bringing stakeholders together to settle thorny land use issues, such as where to site oil and gas development and how best to allow multiple uses of the land while ensuring the health of wildlife, rivers and other natural resources.
South Park is one of the places where BLM is piloting Planning 2.0, and so far the majority of stakeholders have embraced the new planning process. Members of the oil and gas industry, Front Range water providers, sportsmen, environmentalists, Republican Park County commissioners, business owners, agency personnel, ranchers—all praise the increased opportunities for input and believe Planning 2.0 will help protect natural resources while sustaining the local economy.
Sen. Cory Gardner rightly called outdoor recreation “a cornerstone of our economy in Colorado” after the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Impact Act of 2015 that he authored recently passed the Senate. He clearly understands the importance of outdoor recreation, public lands and wildlife resources to local economies and residents. Outdoor recreation accounts for more than $13 billion in economic activity in Colorado and supports some 125,000 jobs, according to the Boulder-based Outdoor Industry Association.
The foundation of that booming outdoor sector is the health of places like South Park.
Colorado sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts call on Sen. Gardner and other lawmakers to continue to lead and advocate for the state’s important recreation economy and public lands heritage by resisting this reckless stampede to scrap Planning 2.0.
The current administration has a great deal of latitude to implement, or if necessary revise, the rule to ensure that it works for all stakeholders, including public land users, state and local governments and the BLM itself. Using the Congressional Review Act does not help to solve public land management challenges; it will only make it more difficult for the BLM to be good land stewards. The House of Representatives erred when it passed its resolution disapproving of the Planning 2.0, but the Senate doesn’t have to make the same mistake.
Sportsmen everywhere need to raise their voices for public lands. Please take a few minutes to contact your Senators and urge them to oppose efforts to do away with Planning 2.0 and ensure that the public has a voice in public land management.