The preponderance of business owners in Colorado and three other western states believe the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund has been beneficial to their bottom lines, according to a recent survey.
A poll of more than 800 mostly small-business owners in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Montana showed that the public lands that exist within those states, and the federal fund that helps secure more open lands, is not only good for the outdoor industry, but all others as well.
The survey, conducted by Strategies 360 Research, was commissioned by several outdoor business groups in an effort to persuade Congress to reauthorize the fund, which is due to sunset at the end of this month.
"We know there's a lot of priorities in Washington, and conservation isn't always a priority," said Beau Kiklis, organizer for the Colorado Outdoor Business Alliance. "We have to use our organizations and businesses as a microphone to elevate those issues. This deadline has been approaching quickly for quite some time, and we have a duty as advocates for public lands ... to stand on that platform and use those microphones that we have to elevate the importance of programs like LWCF."
The survey showed that 81 percent of the businesses support reauthorizing the fund. It comes on the heels of a letter sent earlier this month from 70 Colorado-based businesses, including Mayfly Outdoors in Montrose and Gen9 Productions in Grand Junction, calling on Colorado's congressional delegation to push harder for reauthorization.
Currently, there are a number of measures pending before Congress to permanently reauthorize the fund, created in 1964 from royalty payments from offshore oil and gas drilling to acquire public lands to benefit outdoor recreation. It receives no taxpayer money.
Those measures, however, have not advanced passed the committee stage.
Last month, a bipartisan group of senators, including Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Cory Gardner, introduced an amendment onto a House-approved bill to reauthorize the fund. But neither that amendment nor that measure, H.R.3, have been acted on.
Of the two bills pending before the U.S. Senate, both of which list Bennet and Gardner as cosponsors, one, S.569, also calls for fully funding it. The original law that created the fund calls for putting up to $900 million into it, but Congress has rarely funded it to that level. This year, Congress appropriated $425 million to the fund.
That bill, along with S.896 and H.R.502, call for earmarking 1.5 percent of the LWCF annual appropriation, or about $10 million, to open up additional access to public lands to outdoor uses.
To date, only four members of Colorado's delegation — Democratic Reps. Jared Polis, Diana DeGette, and Ed Perlmutter, and Republican Rep. Mike Coffman — have signed on to the bill. U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, a Republican who represents the 3rd Congressional District, has said he supports reauthorization, but has not signed onto the bill.