Ben Beall: What’s the future of our public lands?
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Editor Lisa Schlichtman and the Steamboat Pilot & Today for moderating the recent candidates forum. It is a great public service.
There is one question that I don’t think has gotten enough exposure in this election and it is important for the future of Routt County. What is the future of our public lands?
Our public lands are so important to our lives in Routt County and here in the Yampa Valley. An example, our skiing economy is directly linked to public lands since Steamboat Ski Resort, like all major Colorado ski areas, lies mostly on U.S. Forest Service lands.
Also, because this is public lands, we can skin up and ski down, and in the summer, we can bike the trails if we don’t infringe on the ski resort’s operations. Another example is the recent Forest Service and community bike trails initiative on Buffalo Pass, which opens up trails for public use.
But more broadly, the huge swaths of public lands in Northwest Colorado support a wide variety of uses that are critical to our economy and way of life, not only for recreation, hunting and fishing, but for more traditional uses like ranching and energy development.
As we cast our ballots in the election, we should pay close attention to our candidates’ stances on public lands.
Do they support policies that invest and support the stewardship of these lands? Do they promote collaboration and cooperation between federal and state land managers and private landowners and communities? Do they believe that our public lands are one of Routt County’s most valuable assets? One that we all share as Americans?
Some of our local elected representatives have forged very different records on public lands. Some have championed our public lands, sponsoring last year’s Colorado Public Lands Day (SB 16-021) to commemorate all the benefits of public lands.
Some have been the most ardent champions of seizing control of public lands and transferring them to state or private ownership. Even sponsoring bills in the state legislature to either seize public lands, study the concept or undermine public lands management — examples are SB13-142, SB14-077, SB14-091, SB15-232.
Routt County citizens need to be vigilant regarding our public lands. These lands are what make Routt County the great place it is. I thank the Pilot for raising this issue in their election guide. Now it’s up to us with our ballots.
Former Routt County commissioner
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