Lilly: Business owners should support wilderness preservation (column) | SummitDaily.com

Lilly: Business owners should support wilderness preservation (column)

Frank Lilly
Guest column

This week is National Small Business Week, and our country is recognizing outstanding entrepreneurs and small business owners from all across the 50 states and U.S. territories. As a small business owner myself, I think it is important that our elected officials understand what we need in order to continue to serve our customers and communities.

Here in Colorado, public lands sustain small businesses, ranging from outdoor recreation outfitters and hotels to liquor stores and places like my print shops that serve local companies and entrepreneurs. While many people visit Colorado for our outstanding mountains and rivers, many more people are choosing to live here, and they bring with them the need for a wide variety of businesses.

Like most mountain residents, I came to Colorado because I was enthralled by its beauty. I stayed largely because of the wide variety of both summer and winter recreation opportunities. I have been very fortunate to own a business here. And it survives in great part due to the public lands that we all enjoy.

That's why it's important we ensure that certain public lands remain protected and are not unnecessarily developed. And that's why I support the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness, and Camp Hale Legacy Act, and why I signed a letter with 95 other businesses urging Senator Cory Gardner to support the legislation.

Introduced by Senator Michael Bennet and Congressman Jared Polis, the legislation would preserve roughly 98,621 acres of the White River National Forest for wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation opportunities. The legislation would also establish our nation's first National Historic Landscape to honor and protect Camp Hale, home of the WWII training camp of the famous 10th Mountain Division.

The legislation is a win-win for Colorado. It is the result of years of negotiations and compromises. Mountain biking and motorized use in those areas where they are currently allowed would continue, and healthy habit for wildlife would be conserved. Additionally, it would safeguard clean drinking water that originates in the High Country that everyone depends upon. Plus protecting Camp Hale would not only honor World War II veterans, but it would also celebrate the birth of our ski industry that has made Colorado a worldwide winter destination.

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Outdoor recreation alone is big business in Colorado. It generates $28 billion in consumer spending, supports 229,000 jobs and pays $9.7 billion in direct wages and salaries.

Additionally, some 13 million people a year visit the White River National Forest and spend their dollars in surrounding communities.

The Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness, and Camp Hale Legacy Act is deserving of Senator Gardner's support. It would strengthen our local economies and make Colorado an even more attractive place to live and visit. The bill also has broad support from veterans, sportsmen, local governments and business owners like me.

During National Small Business Week, we should honor the backbone of Colorado's economy and protect our greatest asset: our public lands and waters. That is why our letter to Senator Gardner concluded with, "We urge you to cosponsor the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act, and thus secure permanent protection for the important lands in Eagle and Summit Counties. This bill is another step forward in preserving Colorado's outdoor heritage as well as our outdoor economy. It's good for Coloradans, all those living in America, and future generations."

Frank Lilly is the owner of Copy Copy in Frisco.