This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. For a half century, this landmark conservation measure has helped protect our great nation’s last remaining unspoiled lands and natural wonders. Over 100 million acres of wilderness and iconic landscapes from the Everglades in Florida to Grand Teton in Wyoming to the Mojave Desert in California have been protected. In our own backyard, we enjoy 43 wilderness areas across Colorado, which highlight our 14,000-foot peaks, pristine forests, vast canyons and high-altitude lakes. These wild lands are symbolic of our Western heritage and enhance the quality of life for all Coloradans.
This weekend we take another step to further our state’s strong legacy of conservation and recreation. I am introducing the Rocky Mountain Recreation and Wilderness Preservation Act, a bill that will benefit wildlife, protect our clean air and water, and strengthen our local businesses and economy. The Rocky Mountain Recreation and Wilderness Preservation Act preserves some of Colorado’s most special remaining wild places by designating approximately 40,000 acres of new wilderness and over 10,000 acres of Recreation Management Areas in Eagle and Summit counties.
There is no doubt that local hotels, restaurants, outfitter and shops will benefit when access to world-class recreation opportunities are protected. Outdoor recreation is critical to the economic well-being of communities in the Rocky Mountains. Each year, outdoor recreation generates $13.2 billion in consumer spending, 125,000 jobs, and $994 million in state and local tax revenue in Colorado. This bill will protect and increase the outdoor recreation economy by ensuring that there will always be space to recreate in Summit and Eagle counties.
I have long been an advocate of increasing federally protected lands in Colorado. This year, I have doubled down on my efforts to protect our beautiful wilderness in order to ensure it can be enjoyed by generations to come. New to the proposal this year is the addition of the Tenmile Recreation Management Area in Summit County. This area will promote and enhance the thriving recreation economy by encouraging visitors from around the world to come to the area to enjoy world-class recreation opportunities, including mountain biking, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, snowshoeing, climbing, skiing, camping and hunting.
The introduction of this legislation is just the first step in the journey to protect our wilderness and strengthen our economy. I will continue to work with and listen to constituents and community partners, but just as important, citizens need to speak up and demonstrate how much we care about protecting the natural beauty that our home is known for.
Many communities have already contributed to this process, influencing my legislation and highlighting the priorities of their residents. I want to thank the town of Breckenridge, Eagle County, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, Conservation Colorado, Access Fund, Wilderness Society, People for Bikes, International Mountain Biking Association and the Outdoor Industry Association for being outstanding leaders as we developed the bill together.
This weekend, I invite all of the readers of the Summit Daily to join me in celebrating the past 50 years of wilderness, and in offering their voices and support to a future where our children and grandchildren can enjoy the same hikes, bike rides or camping sites that our parents and grandparents did.
A Democrat, Jared Polis is the member of the United States House of Representatives for Colorado’s 2nd congressional district.