Aligning values

Colorado’s biggest political guns are marching to the beat of the same drum, proclaiming the Centennial State is the perfect new location for the massive Outdoor Retailer Show which is leaving Salt Lake City over the extreme stance Utah’s political leaders have taken on public lands.

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Sens. Cory Gardner, a Republican, and Democrat Michael Bennet sent a joint letter Monday to the Outdoor Retailer Show hailing Colorado’s bipartisan commitment to maintaining and protecting public lands.

Considering that Utah is ground-zero for a movement to transfer management of public lands from the federal government to the states, it’s not hard for Colorado to claim that its values are more closely aligned with the outdoor industry, which relies on public lands for its livelihood.

Colorado could enhance that claim if Gardner and Bennet refuse to overturn the first major revision of the Bureau of Land Management’s land-use planning process in three decades.

Congress is seeking to overturn BLM’s Planning 2.0 initiative under the Congressional Review Act. The House has already voted to eliminate the rule. If the Senate follows suit, it will undo an effort to increase public involvement, improve transparency and promote science-based decision-making in public-lands planning.

Planning 2.0 is not without its critics. The Western Governors’ Association has asked Congress in a Feb. 10 letter to “direct the BLM to re-examine the final Planning 2.0 rule. Any revisions ... should be crafted collaboratively with western states.”

But there can be no revisions if the rule is repealed under the CRA, which is a “nuclear bomb” of a legislative tool. The CRA would not only overturn the rule, but block future rulemakings that are “substantially the same” without prior approval from Congress.

That means the BLM would be stuck with an antiquated planning process, hobbling the agency in a way that reinforces all the negative perceptions that already exist regarding the way it manages public lands.

Sportsmen’s groups, the Pew Charitable Trusts, conservation groups and the Outdoor Industry Association all support Planning 2.0. The WGA wants to keep it alive to improve it.

Public lands are the backbone of the outdoor industry, which contributes $646 billion to the economy annually.

Gardner sponsored the Outdoor Recreation and Jobs Economic Impact Act, which was signed into law by the president last year. It requires the Bureau of Economic Analysis to calculate the economic impact of the outdoor recreation industry and requires the Commerce Department to provide Congress with a full evaluation of the outdoor recreation industry.

He obviously recognizes the importance of the outdoor recreation industry as a jobs creator and an economic engine. He should also understand that the industry equates killing the rule with hampering growth.

The Senate vote may have not any bearing on whether the Outdoor Retailer Show relocates to Colorado. But supporting 2.0 is a show of good faith that our senators get what’s at stake.


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