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Donovan, Mitsch Bush ‘Public Lands Day’ bill sent to Senate ‘kill committee’

January 20, 2016, 8:47 am
Vail Mountain

Vail Mountain in the summer (Vail Resorts photo).

A bill to recognize the importance of federally-owned public lands in places like Vail, where the economy depends on those lands remaining public, was promptly dispatched to a “kill committee” by Republicans who control the Colorado Senate.

Sponsored in the House by Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, a Democrat who represents Eagle and Routt counties in the State Legislature, and in the Senate by Sen. Kerry Donovan, a Vail Democrat who also represents Eagle County, the bill would establish March 4 as “Public Lands Day.”

But it will likely die a quiet death in the State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee, where the controlling party typically sends doomed legislation.

Here’s the language of the public lands bill (pdf) that was introduced as the session opened up last week: “The bill designates the fourth Monday in March as ‘Public Lands Day’ to recognize the significant contributions that national public lands within Colorado make to wildlife, recreation, the economy, and to Coloradans’ quality of life.”

The bill will likely wind up being largely symbolic as Democrats look to combat a growing Republican movement to explores transferring control of federal lands in the West to state control in order to have more local say in how those lands are managed, especially as it relates to ranching, logging and mining. Democrats fear such industrial activities will adversely impact the environment and the outdoor recreation industry.

The debate is being played out with the Bundy family militia takeover in Oregon as a backdrop. The following story was produced by RealVail.com for the national website RouteFifty.com.

As Bundy Takeover Plays Out in Oregon, Colorado Lawmakers Debate State Control

With roots in the Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s, the Bundy family militia takeover of a federal wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon has added fuel to an ongoing debate in the Colorado Legislature over state control of public lands.

Democratic lawmakers plan to offer legislation this session that supports the current system of federal management for public lands that comprise more than a third of Colorado, and that in turn will draw the ire of Republicans—some of whom sympathize with the Bundy standoff in Oregon.

State Sen. Kerry Donovan, a Democrat from Vail, told Route Fifty she’s running a bill this session to “proactively make a statement that matches the feeling of more than 70 percent of Coloradans – that we love our public lands and it’s important to our quality of life and our small businesses across Colorado to have broad access to all of our public lands.”

Colorado College’s State of the Rockies Project Conservation in the West Poll, released last week, found that 59 percent of the residents of seven Mountain West states oppose giving states control of public lands. It also found that ahead of the 2016 election, 77 percent of Coloradans say “issues involving public lands, waters, and wildlife are an important factor in deciding whether to support an elected public official.”

The long-running debate over federal land management stems from two seemingly contradictory missions: allowing extractive industry access and keeping lands pristine for outdoor recreation. Donovan’s idea of access—primarily for uses such as skiing, hiking, hunting, boating, fishing and camping—runs counter to the kind of access some Colorado Republicans are talking about.

Go to RouteFifty.com to read more.


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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is the editor and co-founder of RealVail.com and has had his awarding-winning work (see About Us) published in more than 75 newspapers and magazines around the world, including 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), the Anchorage Daily Press (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, Aspen Journalism, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Boulder Daily Camera, the Casper Star Tribune (Wyoming), the Chicago Tribune, Colorado Central Magazine, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), Colorado Newsline, Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Colorado Times Recorder, the Cortez Journal, the Craig Daily Press, the Curry Coastal Pilot (Oregon), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Del Norte Triplicate (California), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Gazette, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, Explore Big Sky (Mont.), the Fort Morgan Times (Colorado), the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), the Kingman Daily Miner (Arizona), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the Las Vegas Sun, the Leadville Herald-Democrat, the London Daily Mirror, the Moab Times Independent (Utah), the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), the Montrose Daily Press, The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, the Rio Blanco Herald Times (Colorado), Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), the Salt Lake Tribune, SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Sky-Hi News, the Steamboat Pilot & Today, the Sterling Journal Advocate (Colorado), the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Health Magazine, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail, Westword (Denver), Writers on the Range and the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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