Many #Colorado businesses line up behind the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Continental Divide Trail in the Weminuche Wilderness. By Charlie DeTar [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

From The Denver Post (Judith Kohler):

A Colorado coalition of 70 businesses sent a letter Thursday to the state’s congressional delegation asking the lawmakers to support permanently reauthorizing the 54-year-old Land and Water Conservation Fund, which will expire Sept. 30.

The businesses, ranging from a mortgage company to outdoor equipment companies to retail stores, wrote to federal lawmakers that the fund has generated more than $268 million since its inception to help build trails in Colorado, protect fish and wildlife habitat and water supplies, and expand access to public lands for hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Investments in conserving the state’s open spaces and developing parks have helped build what is now a “booming $28 billion outdoor recreation industry” in the state, the businesses said.

The state’s outdoor recreation industry supports 229,000 direct jobs and generates $9.7 billion in wages and $2 billion in state and local tax revenue, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. Colorado’s robust outdoor recreation economy and support for public lands helped draw the Outdoor Retailer trade shows to Denver from Salt Lake City this year…

Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner are cosponsors of S. 569, a bill that would permanently reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Reps. Diana DeGette, Jared Polis , Mike Coffman and Ed Perlmutter are all cosponsors of a House version of the legislation. Rep. Scott Tipton recently announced his support for reauthorizing the fund. Reps. Doug Lamborn and Ken Buck didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment by The Denver Post on their positions.

The conservation program is funded through a portion of the fees imposed on offshore oil and gas. Congress has rarely funded the program at its full authorized level of $900 million per year. Congress agreed to extend LWCF for three years after it originally ran out in 2015. This time, supporters want Congress to permanently reauthorize it and commit to fully funding it.

Luis Benitez, director of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, said continuing LWCF “is absolutely vital” to fueling the economic engine that outdoor recreation has become in Colorado and across the nation.

The Colorado coalition calling on lawmakers to support LWCF says it’s particularly concerned about the impact on Continental Divide National Scenic Trail if the program lapses. The trail, which stretches over 3,100 miles from Canada to Mexico along the spine of the Rockies, has gaps where there is no access to public lands. Grants from LWCF are used to acquire land from open or improve access to public lands.

From ColoradoPolitics.com (Marianne Goodland) via The Durango Herald:

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder and three other members of Colorado’s House delegation have signed onto the latest effort to urge Congressional leaders to find a way to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

But missing from the letter: the only Republican in Colorado’s House delegation – U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora – who has co-sponsored legislation that would do exactly what the letter asks.

The fund, which largely draws on federal offshore drilling, has provided more than $267 million for recreation and conservation projects in Colorado.

Polis – the Democratic candidate for governor – and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton of Cortez both announced last week they would support full funding, estimated at as much as $900 million per year, plus permanent reauthorization of the conservation fund.

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