Beloved rural character of Colorado will be protected under 30 by 30 plan

Don’t be swayed by misinformation about public lands conservation

Pronghorn are seen on the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge near Walden on July 6, 2019. (USFWS Mountain-Prairie/Public Domain Mark 1.0)

Jacob Fischler did a terrific job of explaining President Joe Biden’s initiative to conserve 30% of our lands and waters by 2030 (“Biden’s 30 by 30 conservation plan urges collaboration with private landowners“). This historic plan will rely on collaborative partnerships and local-driven conservation solutions on public, private and Tribal lands. It will restore degraded habitat, recover imperiled wildlife, and help tackle the climate crisis.

I’m a hunter, angler and all-around nature lover. I’ve seen firsthand how wildlife habitat has been degraded by drought, invasive species, megafires, and fragmentation from human development. All of this leads to wildlife population declines. We have lost a third of our wildlife in this country since 1970, and scientists tell us we stand to lose a third of our wildlife species in the next several decades if we don’t act. The only way to reverse these trends is for communities to work together to conserve and restore our forests, grasslands, and working lands. Doing so will revitalize wildlife populations, make our communities safer from the threat of wildfire, and sustain our outdoor recreation economy.

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Biden’s plan will help empower Colorado’s rural communities, farmers, ranchers, and conservationists to invest in grasslands and forests, which have been under siege from wildfires, drought and development.

As Coloradans, we are deeply tied to the land. We all understand that it is our responsibility to future generations to leave our state better off than we found it, and to do so by working together. A recent poll from Colorado College found that 65% of us are worried about the future of nature. That’s why 81% of Coloradans support this important national goal of conserving 30% of America’s lands and waters over the next decade.

It is unfortunate that some county commissioners in Colorado have been swayed by misinformation from the anti-public lands group American Stewards of Liberty. This Texas-based fringe group wants to promote fear instead of real solutions that can benefit rural America. The wide-open spaces and rural landscapes are things we all cherish and hope to see flourish now and into the future. It defies logic to suggest that investing in our forests, prairies, and streams will have a negative downside for our rural communities.

Biden’s plan will fund locally-driven initiatives to protect critically important habitat, restore degraded lands, offer incentives to private landowners to foster conservation, and maintain working landscapes. These are things that will protect the rural way of life — not block access, take private property, or prevent multiple-use management. It can provide funding for restoration efforts like cleaning up abandoned oil and gas wells, removing cheatgrass, and replanting burned forests, which will create jobs and boost the outdoor recreation economy in rural Colorado. Further, these efforts can include funding for things like conservation easements and habitat leases that help conserve private, working lands, while also providing habitat for wildlife. Above all, it will maintain the rural character we all prefer over yet another housing development.

Elected leaders should welcome these kinds of opportunities for investment in our communities. It’s exactly what most Coloradans say they want: A whopping 94% of us in that same poll said that even with our state’s budget problems, we should find money to protect our state’s land, water and wildlife. Right now is the time to help define the scope of possibilities for this program, put our heads together, and chart a course that’s good for our communities and the open spaces and public lands that we are lucky to live near. It’s pretty hard to argue with a conservation framework that promotes job creation, makes our communities more resilient to wildfire and climate change, protects our air and water, and ensures that our children and our grandchildren will be able to enjoy the spectacular Colorado landscapes and wildlife heritage that we inherited.

We need to stop spreading more fear, divisiveness, and rhetoric about the big bad government. Instead, we should take advantage of the opportunity to get sorely needed resources into small-town America. As a small-town resident whose family loves these landscapes as much as anyone, I welcome this bold vision and funding to conserve the rural character and healthy landscapes that define Colorado — and will keep it this way for future Coloradans.

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