Printed Letters: May 7, 2014
Conserving backcountry helps hunting economy
My family owns and operates an outdoor gear manufacturer based on the Western Slope. We supply hunters, backpackers and other outdoors adventurers with some of the finest tents, wood stoves and backpacks one can buy, and our products are made here in Colorado (mostly in Grand Junction). Our bottom line depends on the conservation of wildlife habitat and the maintenance of high-quality recreational opportunities on public lands.
Oftentimes economics drive the debate over public lands management. The billions of dollars in economic activity generated every year through hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation should get the attention it deserves. This is true locally, where the Grand Junction and White River BLM field offices are currently considering how to manage over 2.5 million acres of public lands, many of which are high-quality backcountry, providing intact wildlife habitat and superb dispersed recreational opportunities to the public.
Here are some statistics according to studies conducted by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and American Sportfishing Association that reinforce the power of the hunting and fishing economy in Colorado and the nation:
• In Colorado, hunting and fishing accounted for $1.3 billion in direct expenditures in 2011.
• Hunting and fishing generated more than $171 million in state and local tax revenue in Colorado in 2011.
• If hunting in the U.S. were a company, the amount spent by sportsmen to support their hunting activities would place it at number 73 on the Fortune 500 list. Fishing would come in at number 51.
For hunting and fishing to remain an economic boon in Colorado and the Western Slope, the BLM must conserve intact and undeveloped backcountry lands as it revises the Grand Junction and White River resource management plans.
BLM clerical error shouldn’t put hundreds of jobs at risk
As your article from May 2, “BLM hears pro-energy side,” made clear, there is a tremendous amount of support for the continued responsible development of the natural resources of western Colorado.
There is also a tremendous amount of support for the idea that a lease contract should be binding and that to arbitrarily renege on it is contemptible. The only reason these contracts are being revisited at all is because the BLM neglected to staple a piece of paper onto the mound of paperwork that said it accepts the U.S. Forest Service’s environmental assessment. That’s it.
The BLM could easily rectify this oversight by providing the requisite formal acceptance of the Forest Service’s environmental review. Instead, it is opening up a whole new review of 65 leases, with the option of outright voiding them on the table, and putting at risk the capital, plans and investment of a number of private businesses, not to mention the hundreds of jobs and millions in local revenue that will be lost if these leases are yanked by the federal government. Individual companies entered into the 65 leases in question in good faith. These companies — and their employees and their employees’ families — should not be left holding the bag for the BLM’s procedural error.
The message delivered in De Beque Thursday evening was that the people of the West Slope deserve a say in these decisions, and we will not lie down and accept the taking of our livelihoods.
Energy workers showed class at BLM meeting in De Beque
Thank you to our Mesa County commissioners who pointed out to the Bureau of Land Management that even though the majority of the 65 existing oil and gas leases under review in the White River National Forest are in Mesa County, all of the public meetings were scheduled in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Aspen.
To be fair, I also thank the BLM staff for acknowledging and correcting this error by scheduling a fourth meeting in De Beque a few weeks later.
As someone whose husband and brother both work in the energy industry, I was touched by the amazing show of support by the hundreds of people who came to offer their testimony, ask questions or simply provide the occasional applause or tip of the hat. Members of the private and public sector, elected officials, friends and family all came together for one common goal — to show support for the industry that supports so many Colorado families.
Lastly, I want to say thank-you to all of those who attended for the way they represented themselves and the industry. I am sure that some would like to stereotype the hard-working people associated with the energy industry in a less-than-positive light, but that night you showed that we are caring, thoughtful, intelligent and respectful (even to those with differing opinions).
As I left that meeting in De Beque surrounded by pristine views and great people and with my husband and children at my side, I was not just proud of our “community,” I felt blessed by it.