The Outdoor Retailer Show and its partners today announced that Denver has been chosen as the new home for the $45 million biannual gathering.

On the final day for public comments during the Trump administration’s “review” of 27 national monuments, Coloradans across the state are standing up for our public lands, especially our most exceptional protected places like Canyons of the Ancients National Monument near Cortez.

“Coloradans have shown unequivocally that they support our national parks and monuments,” said Scott Braden, Wilderness and Public Lands Advocate at Conservation Colorado. “President Trump and Secretary Zinke’s morally bankrupt threat to shrink or remove protections for our public lands has backfired and has resulted in even greater support for them. This attack has also shown Secretary Zinke’s initial claim to be a devotee of President Teddy Roosevelt to be a cruel farce.”

Since the beginning of the monuments review, announced in early May, Coloradans have spoken out in many ways:

  • As of this morning, nearly 12,000 Conservation Colorado members had submitted comments supporting Canyons of the Ancients. See a sampling of Coloradans’ comments here, including those from MB McAfee of Cortez and the CEO of Icelantic Skis.
  • Nationally, more than 2.5 million comments in favor of protecting our nation’s monuments have been submitted.
  • Editorial boards from across the state have weighed in for keeping Canyons of the Ancients protected or for the Antiquities Act, including the Denver Post, Grand Junction SentinelDurango Herald, and Cortez Journal.
  • Elected officials have weighed in, including:

– The Colorado state House unanimously voted to pass a resolution in support of the Antiquities Act and all of Colorado’s national monuments.
– Colorado’s statewide officials (Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner and Governor John Hickenlooper) as well as local Congressman Scott Tipton have supported Canyons of the Ancients.
– 29 county commissioners from across the state signed a letter to the Secretary of Interior stating, “These monuments are our heritage, our future and our template for preservation.”
– The Cortez City Council signed a strong letter to the Secretary of Interior saying, “Canyons of the Ancients became a National Monument because it is a special place and merits the protections that Monument Status provides.”

While Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has made assurances to some of our Colorado leaders that Canyons of the Ancients will remain unharmed, other national monuments have come under direct attack, even in the face of widespread public support. Secretary Zinke has recommended that neighboring Bears Ears National Monument in Utah be shrunk.

Contact: Scott Braden, 720-530-7473

President Trump is in Utah today where he is expected to announce the slashing of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments by hundreds of thousands of acres.

Scott Braden, Conservation Colorado’s Wilderness and Public Lands Advocate, traveled to Salt Lake City this past weekend to join a protest against Trump’s actions (please feel free to use his photo included in this release’s header).

Braden stated: “President Trump’s actions are one of the largest attack on public lands in our nation’s history. This is a slap in the face to every Coloradan who cherishes our Western way of life, and is an move that threatens all protected public lands and national monuments. Trump’s decision is part of a offensive pattern of insults to Native American tribes, part of whose cultural legacy is protected by the Bears Ears National Monument. No park or monument is safe from this malicious administration, including those in Colorado.”

More information:

  • A campaign to protect Bears Ears was led by Hopi, Navajo, Ute and Zuni tribal leaders, and protected 100,000 archaeological sites. It links critical habitat corridors and several national parks along the Colorado Plateau.
  • The Antiquities Act has been deployed to create parks and protect some of Colorado’s most exemplary natural treasures including the Great Sand Dunes, Browns Canyon, Chimney Rock, and Colorado National Monument.
  • In a 2017 poll of seven Western states, 80% of voters supported keeping protections for existing national monuments.

Contact: Jace Woodrum, 720-412-3772

Today Senator Michael Bennet and Representative Jared Polis introduced the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act to permanently protect the natural beauty, outdoor recreation, historic resources, and wildlife habitat of the White River National Forest area, including Camp Hale as the first-ever National Historic Landscape.

“This bill would protect 96,000 acres in the country’s busiest national forest,” said Scott Braden, Wilderness and Public Lands Advocate at Conservation Colorado. “Throughout the inclusive process to develop this legislation, thousands of Coloradans have spoken up to protect this wild place and preserve it for hiking, fishing, hunting, wildlife watching, and world-class mountain biking.”

The bill will protect portions of the White River National Forest in Colorado’s Summit and Eagle counties. The region is home to iconic vistas and mountain towns that attract visitors from metro Denver and around the world. These wild places are at risk from overuse and development that could threaten the area’s clean water, wildlife, and booming outdoor recreation economy.

“Senator Bennet and Representative Polis are showing, once again, their incredible commitment and leadership on behalf of Coloradans who treasure their public lands. All of us want to ensure that the outdoor recreation industry continues to grow, that our wild places are preserved for our grandchildren, and that the natural heritage that defines Colorado remains for all to explore and enjoy,” continued Braden.

The Act would create 20,000 acres of new wilderness areas in the Williams Fork Mountains, Tenmile Range, and Hoosier Ridge, and it would expand the existing Holy Cross, Eagles Nest, and Ptarmigan Peak wilderness areas by another 20,000 acres.

In addition, nearly 30,000 acres of public lands surrounding Camp Hale will be protected as the country’s first National Historic Landscape. In 1945, Colorado’s challenging landscapes helped to train the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division who went on to fight in Italy’s mountains in World War II. Former members of the 10th Mountain Division went on to help found approximately 60 ski resorts around the country, including Vail, Aspen, Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, and Steamboat. A flood of surplus skis and other outdoor equipment helped launch the modern outdoor recreation industry.

“Protecting the area around Camp Hale honors those soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice and those who returned to Colorado to help the state become one of the greatest places to play outside,” said Braden.

Senator Bennet and Representative Polis will celebrate the introduction of the bill at the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show (OR Show) in Denver. In response to extreme anti-public lands policies, the OR Show moved from Utah to Colorado, making it the perfect place to mark the introduction of this historic legislation. Senator Bennet and Representative Polis will speak at the OR Show on Saturday, January 27, 4:30 – 5:00 p.m. at the Outdoor Research booth (44030-UL).

Today Colorado Senators passed SB18-066, which extends the operation of the State Lottery Division. The bill reauthorizes the Lottery Division, which will expire in 2024 without action from the General Assembly, to administer the program for 25 additional years. The proceeds from Colorado’s Lottery support outdoor recreation and land conservation in all 64 counties in the state.

“Colorado is the only state that distributes 100 percent of lottery proceeds to support outdoor recreation and land conservation,” said Scott Braden, Wilderness and Public Lands Advocate at Conservation Colorado. “The Senate’s support for lottery reauthorization sends a clear message that we value our public lands — from city playgrounds to state parks. Our Representatives should follow suit and pass this bill to ensure that Coloradans can continue to access and enjoy the trails, rivers, and wildlife we all treasure.”

Half of the proceeds from Colorado’s Lottery go to a program called Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO). GOCO has returned more than $1.1 billion in funding to the people of Colorado. These projects have helped connect families to the outdoors, created and enhanced community trails and parks, built outdoor recreation facilities, preserved wild spaces and wildlife habitat, and improved river access and quality.

GOCO has funded projects from the Eastern Plains to the Western Slope, including:

  • Creating and improving over 1,600 community parks and outdoor recreation areas.
  • Conserving more than 1 million acres.
  • Restoring or reconstructing 900 miles of trails.
  • Protecting nearly 1,000 miles of rivers.
  • Adding over 47,000 acres to the state parks system.
  • Investing in efforts supporting 43 endangered or threatened species.

About Conservation Colorado
Conservation Colorado protects Colorado’s environment and quality of life by mobilizing people and electing conservation-minded policymakers. Learn more at conservationco.org.

Contact: Jace Woodrum, 720-412-3772
jace@conservationco.org

Today the Colorado General Assembly passed SB18-066, sending it to Governor Hickenlooper’s desk for signature. The bill reauthorizes the Lottery Division, which will expire in 2024 without legislation, to administer the program for 25 additional years. The proceeds from Colorado’s lottery support outdoor recreation and land conservation in all 64 counties in the state.

“Colorado is the only state that distributes 100 percent of lottery proceeds to support outdoor recreation and land conservation,” said Scott Braden, Wilderness and Public Lands Advocate at Conservation Colorado. “The legislature’s support for lottery reauthorization sends a clear message that we value our public lands — from city playgrounds to state parks. With this bill, we will ensure that Coloradans can continue to access and enjoy the trails, rivers, and wildlife we all treasure.”

Half of the proceeds from Colorado’s Lottery go to a program called Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO). GOCO has returned more than $1.1 billion in funding to the people of Colorado. These projects have helped connect families to the outdoors, created and enhanced community trails and parks, built outdoor recreation facilities, preserved wild spaces and wildlife habitat, and improved river access and quality.

GOCO has funded projects from the Eastern Plains to the Western Slope, including:

  • Creating and improving over 1,600 community parks and outdoor recreation areas.

  • Conserving more than 1 million acres.

  • Restoring or reconstructing 900 miles of trails.

  • Protecting nearly 1,000 miles of rivers.

  • Adding over 47,000 acres to the state parks system.

  • Investing in efforts supporting 43 endangered or threatened species.

In spite of widespread public support of the rule, the Trump administration today took steps to repeal the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Methane Waste Rule. This 2016 rule was created to cut methane waste from oil and gas operations on public lands by requiring producers to fix leaky infrastructure and create gas capture plans prior to development.

“Again and again, the American people have spoken up for these rules that keep our air clean, help our communities stay healthy, and save taxpayers money. But the Trump administration refuses to listen,” said Jessica Goad, deputy director of Conservation Colorado. “Colorado has led the way with strong state-based safeguards that will remain in place, but smog and pollution don’t stay within state borders. Coloradans will certainly feel the effects of this harmful and short-sighted rollback.”

Undoing the BLM Methane Waste Rule will lead to greater air pollution from oil and gas development as producers won’t have to fix leaks or keep gas from escaping into the air. The methane will cause the same amount of short-term climate damage as 8.3 million cars driven over ten years.

In addition to methane, oil and gas operations release dangerous air toxins, including benzene, a known carcinogen, and smog-forming pollutants that can trigger asthma attacks and worsen respiratory diseases such as emphysema. The Trump Administration’s decision to undo this rule will cause more air pollution that will harm families, especially those living closest to oil and gas development.

Preventing methane waste saves taxpayers money. The BLM’s own analysis found that rolling back the rule will cost Americans more than $1 billion — $824 million of wasted natural gas and $259 million in lost public benefits — due to increased methane emissions.

This rule has been under attack since Trump took office, but every attempt to undo it has been met with immense public backlash. More than 600,000 public comments were submitted in the most recent public comment period in May, with 99.8 percent supporting the rule. The 2018 Conservation in the West Poll found that 74 percent of Coloradans support rules requiring oil and gas producers to prevent methane waste on public lands.

Today, Conservation Colorado released its 2019 Conservation Scorecard, an annual look at how every state legislator voted on key environmental bills during the recent legislative session. The scorecard provides Coloradans with the information they need to ensure their elected officials reflect Coloradans’ values, including protections for our air, land, water, and communities.

“Colorado’s 2019 legislative session was historic by any measure,” said Kelly Nordini, executive director of Conservation Colorado. “From climate action and clean energy to oil and gas reforms to protecting our lands, water, and wildlife, this year’s scorecard provides an accounting of who helped and hindered Colorado’s progress.”

Here are top-line results from the Scorecard:

Key votes scored include:

  • Colorado’s Climate Action Plan (HB1261)
  • Comprehensive Oil and Gas Reform (SB181)
  • EV Utility and Tax Credits (HB1159 and SB77)
  • Hard-Rock Mining Reform (HB1113)
  • Conservation Easement Improvements (HB1264)
  • Promoting a Just Transition (HB1314)

Senate

  • 18 Senators had a perfect score.
  • The lowest scores were Senators Chris Holbert, Vicki Marble, and Jim Smallwood at 0 percent each.

House

  • 36 members had a perfect score.
  • The lowest scores were Representatives Mark Baisley, Susan Beckman, Perry Buck, Tim Geitner, Stephen Humphrey, Kimmi Lewis, Lori Saine, Shane Sandridge, and Dave Williams at 0 percent each.

Nordini continued: “This year, the Colorado legislature passed commonsense policies that were years in the making. At a time when the stakes could not be higher, Colorado’s new elected leaders produced results that will protect our state for years to come.”

DENVER – Today the Bureau of Land Management announced a plan allowing the gas drilling industry to dominate Colorado’s idyllic North Fork Valley with new oil and gas leasing. The plan failed to adopt a community-supported proposal that was under consideration by the agency to protect the water supply, wildlife and scenery of the North Fork Valley.

Previously, the North Fork Valley community has fought back three previous attempts to lease public lands for drilling close to the towns of Crawford, Hotchkiss and Paonia while the agency worked to complete its land use plan. The final resource management plan for the area will guide management of public lands for decades to come.

The Western Slope Conservation Center issued the following statement from Patrick Dooling, Executive Director:

“We are extremely disappointed that the BLM is moving forward with a plan that so clearly disrespects the wishes of our community and prioritizes drilling over all other uses here. The push to open our public lands for expanded drilling in Colorado’s premier sustainable farming and agri-tourism region is broadly opposed by local farms, businesses, and residents.

“The BLM’s final plan directly neglects the wishes of local governments, numerous organizations and countless citizens and shows that the current administration continues to prioritize the interests of the oil and gas industry over the public. We have fought back irresponsible drilling leases before and we fight back against this attempt to lock in risk of future drilling for years to come.”

The Wilderness Society issued the following statement from Jim Ramey, Colorado State Director:

“Instead of protecting the clean water supply that allows the North Fork Valley to thrive, the BLM is putting the gas drilling industry first.”

“It’s a shame to see Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a native Coloradan, hand out favors to fossil fuel interests at the expense of local farmers, recreation businesses and the public here in his home state.

Not only does the plan sellout the community in the North Fork Valley by ignoring the locally-grown North Fork Alternative Plan, it also guts protections for critical wildlands across Colorado’s western slope. Places like Dry Creek Basin and Roc Creek – public lands that offer backcountry recreation, scenic views and important wildlife habitat – would be stripped of protections under the Trump administration’s proposed changes to the plan.”

Conservation Colorado issued the following statement from Executive Director Kelly Nordini:

“Today is just one more example of President Trump and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt putting the oil and gas industry ahead of local communities. Instead of helping foster the North Fork Valley’s thriving and growing agriculture and outdoor recreation economy, they are placing these sustainable industries in the crosshairs of an industry that threatens the very clean air, water and climate that helps these local businesses.”

“The Trump administration’s so-called ‘energy dominance’ agenda isn’t just a giveaway of public lands to their polluting industry friends, it mortgages Coloradans’ very future by exacerbating climate impacts instead of avoiding them.”

Why is this so important to western Colorado?

Why is this so important to western Colorado? Oil and gas development is incompatible with a healthy future for the spectacular North Fork Valley of western Colorado. The communities of the North Fork Valley are strongly opposed to oil and gas development, largely due to the negligible economic gains and the significant irreparable damage that could occur from oil and gas activities in the watershed.

  • Clean Water: The North Fork Valley is a hub of organic and traditional agriculture and one of only two federally recognized wine regions in Colorado. Protection of the valley’s water supply relies on protecting the North Fork from source-to-use. Pollution must be prevented from entering this critical water system. For farmers and the agricultural economy, water quantity and quality are both of utmost importance. Organic agriculture, specialty crops, and high-quality hay all depend on abundant water free from contamination.

Surface contamination and spills, which occur regularly in Colorado oil and gas fields, could spread rapidly through the irrigation systems that water the valley. Oil and gas development is well-known to contaminate water supplies, both above and below ground, and to harm water bodies, rivers and source areas. That is a risk too great for operators in the valley, home to Colorado’s highest concentration of organic farms, an agritourism haven, and major headwaters to the Colorado River system.

  • Wildlife: Of particular concern are impacts to mule deer, elk, Canada lynx, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, bald eagle and greenback cutthroat trout. Coupled with the impacts of existing energy development, additional leasing and development directly threaten rare mid-elevation habitat and the wildlife which depends upon it. The state currently does not possess adequate data on elk and mule deer populations in the area of the proposed development, and CPW staff have indicated that recent elk population numbers in the area have been in steep decline over the last few years. The local elk and mule deer are essential to the local economy, not to mention the ecology of our landscapes.

At risk in the final plan are some of the same lands the local community joined together to oppose leasing in 2011 and 2012, and again in late 2018. The initial leasing attempts prompted the BLM to consider a locally grown vision for the North Fork Valley that would keep energy development away from sensitive areas. The BLM agreed to consider the North Fork Alternative Plan in the Uncompahgre Resource Management Plan revision, however, the proposed final plan ignores the local community and undermines the citizens’ vision.

The BLM had been deferring leasing in the North Fork Valley while it revised the Uncompahgre RMP and made a long-term plan for managing the many values of this special landscape, but under Trump administration policies the agency is plowing forward with highly controversial, short-sighted leasing proposals. With its drilling above all other uses strategy for public lands, the Administration is deaf to the voices and vision the local community has worked with the BLM on for years. “Energy dominance” for the purpose of enriching fossil fuel industry executives could well result in farmers, winemakers and ranchers losing their livelihoods.

The North Fork Valley is too wild, too beautiful, and too productive to be sacrificed for oil and gas interests. Efforts to move forward with leasing in the North Fork Valley will continue to be met with strong opposition. The valley has produced energy for our country from public lands for over a century from its coal mines. Now is the time to protect remaining wildlands in the area for future generations to enjoy.

Cover image: North Fork Valley, CO. Mason Cummings, The Wilderness Society.

I write as the enthusiastically wide-eyed recent addition to Conservation Colorado. My name is Koki Atcheson and I graduated from Colorado College this May with a BA in Environmental Science: Integrated and a minor in Education. I am so grateful to the Public Interest Fellowship Program and Conservation Colorado for this opportunity to start as a Communications Fellow.

I accepted a position in Colorado, far from my home base in Honolulu, Hawaii, because I recognize the state of Colorado as a national leader in advancing pro-environmental policies, public lands protections, renewable energy, and clean air and water for all people. I draw inspiration from Colorado’s green spaces of all sizes and the energy of city planners and community members working in partnership with nature. I see hope and great potential in the conservation movement, and I am eager to join a team who works relentlessly toward a better future for our environment and our people.

Once I walked through Conservation Colorado’s doors, I did not wait long to experience advocacy work firsthand. Moments after finding my desk, I listened in on a tele-press conference detailing Senator Cory Gardner’s voting history, and the implications of his anti-environmental votes. This was my introduction to what it means to hold elected officials accountable.

Senator Gardner has failed to fulfill his advertised commitments to renewable energy and the environment. Between 2015 and 2018 he voted against the environment 85 percent of the time. This record does not honor the conservationist identity that I share with 69 percent of Coloradans.

Reading Conservation Colorado’s report of Senator Gardner’s voting history, I was most upset to see that he has made surface-level claims of pro-environmental beliefs without stepping up as a leader in climate policy, sponsoring a wilderness bill, or consistently voting to secure the best interests of Colorado’s people and environment. These findings reinforce the necessity of digging deeper than political candidates’ promotional materials, and making this information easily accessible.

In Colorado, pro-conservation elected officials accurately represent the values and needs of residents. Pro-conservation actions promote public health through policies that minimize displacement and pollution, and maximize green spaces for all. In this way they are a vehicle for justice, and can work to counteract centuries of environmental racism.

Senator Gardner has an immense opportunity to represent Coloradan values and leave a positive legacy for the state he serves through working to advance clean energy, fully sponsor conservation bills, and protect the wilderness areas that keep Colorado wild.

If Colorado hopes to remain a proud champion for our environment, all of our elected officials must step up and boldly pursue action that honors our state’s human and natural needs. In my time as a Communications Fellow at Conservation Colorado, I look forward to learning from a wealth of mentors who are doing the political work to sculpt an equitable, environmentally connected future.