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Gabe Kiritz | 09.09.2016

Twenty-four million acres. Four National Parks. The most visited national forest in the country. Ancestral Puebloan artifacts, stories of Hispanic settlers, European fur trappers, and Native American nations of the plains. Hundreds of miles of singletrack and hiking trails, thousands of climbing routes, the most peaks over 25,000 feet in the lower 48. The superlatives to describe Colorado’s public lands are innumerable. That’s why Conservation Colorado has been fighting to protect these wild places for over 50 years.

Conservation Colorado is the largest statewide environmental group in Colorado. We work with communities around the state to preserve all that makes Colorado an incredible place to live, work, and play. We mobilize our 14,000-strong member base to achieve our mission: electing pro-conservation policymakers to protect Colorado’s environment and quality of life.

Since our organization was founded, we have worked hard to fight for Colorado’s future. Our proudest achievements include:

  • Ensuring that more than three million acres of Colorado wilderness will stay forever wild.
  • Setting a statewide renewable energy standard, then increasing it to 30% and making it one of the strongest in the nation.
  • Working to minimize impacts from oil and gas drilling by updating public health, drinking water and wildlife protections in 2008 and continuing to push for further reforms.
  • Passing more than 130 different conservation bills at the state legislature in the past six years on a host of environmental issues ranging from water efficiency to air quality to renewable energy to transit.
  • Electing pro-conservation candidates and holding our elected officials accountable in the state Legislature, governor’s office, and local government councils and commissions.

Colorado’s 24 million acres of public lands, like those across the American West, offer incredible opportunities to play, seek solitude, and escape the stresses of daily life. They provide myriad ecosystem services like wildlife habitat as well as clean air and drinking water for the state’s growing population.

Where else can we find adventure, stillness, natural beauty, and wildlife to the extent that we find it on our public lands? It is in our national forests where we discover the thrill of skiing and the wonder of snowy peaks in every direction; in our national parks where we find the joy of camping with friends and family under bright stars; and in our wilderness areas where we see wildlife up close for the first time, hike to stunning vistas, and learn to fish in lakes and streams.

Those moments, and those places, are what Conservation Colorado works to protect. We helped elevate local voices to make Browns Canyon our newest national monument. We protected the Hermosa Creek watershed in one of Colorado’s wildest landscapes. This year Colorado will celebrate the state's Public Lands Day, the first such holiday in the nation and one that we helped dream up and put into law. Colorado’s public lands, like those across the American West, help define our state and our way of life. But despite the connections that our stunning landscapes and waterways inspire, our public lands face serious threats.

These threats range from habitat loss to development, including stresses from a changing climate, increasing population pressure, new roads and trails, energy development and transmission, and a small but noisy cadre of “sagebrush rebel” politicians who seem determined to seize public lands and divvy them up among state and private interests. That’s why now, more than ever, we need to speak up for these special places.

Colorado’s Continental Divide

We have an incredible opportunity to permanently protect nearly 60,000 new acres of wilderness in some of Colorado’s most popular destinations for outdoor recreation. Conservation Colorado is a key player in a coalition to preserve these areas, located along the Continental Divide in our nation’s most-visited national forest.

Summit and Eagle counties, home to Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone, and numerous other ski resorts, also boast world-class mountain biking in the Tenmile Range, critical habitat for elk, black bear, turkey, wolverine, blue-ribbon trout, and the source of clean drinking water for much of the Front Range’s rapidly growing cities.

In 2015, Congressman Jared Polis proposed a bill known as the Continental Divide Coalition supporting this effort. The Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act (H.R. 2554) would create new wilderness areas in the Williams Fork Mountains, Tenmile Range, and Hoosier Ridge while expanding existing wilderness in the Holy Cross, Eagles Nest, and Ptarmigan Peak areas. Mountain bikers support the proposal because it sets aside a recreation management area to protect the mountain biking trails and other recreation resources found in the Tenmile Range as well as important wildlife habitat in Porcupine Gulch.

We’ve seen remarkable momentum for protecting these wild places. On Memorial Day, 2016, Senator Michael Bennet announced his promise to introduce a Senate bill that will also include protections for Camp Hale as the first National Historic Landscape in the country. Camp Hale was the site where the 10th Mountain Division trained in skiing, mountaineering, and climbing during World War II. Many 10th Mountain veterans went on to found ski resorts around the state and the country, helping to launch the ski industry and the outdoor recreation industry at large.

The diverse values of the Continental Divide region explain why so many different voices have stood up to support this campaign. Folks like Vail Resorts, the Vet Voice Foundation, Xcel Energy, the Outdoor Industry Association, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Justin’s Peanut Butter, Upslope Brewing Company, Fishpond USA, and the International Mountain Bicycling Association have all lent their names in support of permanent protections along the Continental Divide. And you can help too!

Get Involved

Colorado’s public lands along the Continental Divide and elsewhere need your voice. Get outside and explore the Continental Divide. Here you’ll find adventures throughout the region, whether it’s backpacking through the Holy Cross Wilderness, mountain biking in the Tenmile Range, or camping in the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness. However you choose to explore Colorado’s Continental Divide, there’s no doubt you’ll understand why these wild places deserve permanent protection.

What comes next? Take action and let our elected officials know you support their efforts to protect the Continental Divide. Send Senator Michael Bennet your comments thanking him for his proposal and encouraging him to introduce his bill in the U.S. Congress.


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Conservation Colorado has worked with communities around the state for over 50 years in pursuit of our mission - to protect Colorado’s environment and quality of life by mobilizing people and electing conservation-minded policymakers. We fight to protect the air, land, water, and people of Colorado. Our collaborative approach and focus on electing pro-conservation officials has yielded successes in addressing climate change, supporting clean energy development, conserving water resources, and protecting our public wildlands and rivers. These priority issues, and the incredible natural resources of our state, inspire our motto - The Future is Worth the Fight.

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