By Jessica Goad, Manager of Research and Outreach, Center for American Progress Action Fund.
This morning ThinkProgress Green reported on Mitt Romney’s statement to the Reno Gazette-Journal that he doesn’t know “what the purpose is” of public lands. Romney is scheduled to attend a rally in Colorado tomorrow, where recent polling shows Coloradans have a clear sense of what purpose public lands serve in their state. Here are a few facts to consider:
- Coloradans view public lands as essential to their state’s economy. A recent poll from the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project found that 93 percent of voters in the state believe that “our national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are an essential part of Colorado’s economy.” This includes 75 percent of people who support the Tea Party. [Colorado College, 1/30/12]
- Coloradans feel that public lands are essential to their quality of life. The Colorado College poll also asked whether voters agreed with the statement that “our national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are an essential part of Colorado’s quality of life.” The response was overwhelming, with 97 percent of Coloradans agreeing. [Colorado College, 1/30/12]
- Interior Department activities in Colorado leverage $8.3 billion every year. This includes oil, gas, mining, recreation, timber, grazing, and other uses. This number does not include lands managed by the Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. [Interior Department, 6/21/11]
- Some of America’s most treasured natural places are located on Colorado public lands. Rocky Mountain National Park, Pikes Peak, Great Sand National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, and the Maroon Bells are just a few of examples of the dozens of places that are protected for all of us to enjoy. Tourism in Rocky Mountain National Park alone supported nearly 4,000 jobs in 2009. [Headwaters Economics, 2011]
- Recreation opportunities abound on Colorado’s public lands. Nearly every ski area in Colorado is on public lands, including Vail, Aspen, and Breckenridge. Additionally, families across the state can boat down the Cache la Poudre River (a Wild and Scenic River managed by the Forest Service), see golden eagles at Colorado National Monument, and can even camp in a Forest Service campground after catching the jams at the world-famous Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Recreation on Interior Department lands in Colorado provided $1.3 billion in economic benefits in 2010. [Interior Department, 6/21/11]
- Outdoor recreation – a $10 billion economy in Colorado – often takes place on public lands. Tourists travel to Colorado from around the world and country to experience a wide range of outdoor recreation opportunities. The Outdoor Industry Association found that the active outdoor recreation economy contributes over $10 billion annually to Colorado’s economy and supports 107,000 jobs across the state. Hiking, climbing, camping, hunting, fishing, and mountain biking are just a few of the outdoor activities enjoyed on public lands. [Outdoor Industry Association, 2006]
- Hunting and angling—a $1.8 billion economy in Colorado—often take place on public lands. Millions of acres in Colorado are open to hunting for game and waterfowl and to fishing for species including cutthroat trout, the official state fish. The Colorado Division of Wildlife reported that in 2007 hunting and angling provided $1 .8 billion in impacts to the state. [Colorado Division of Wildlife, 9/08]
- Oil, gas, and minerals from Colorado’s public lands provide $6 billion per year in economic impacts. Mining and drilling on Interior Department-managed lands in Colorado create a tremendous amount of economic opportunity. [Interior Department, 6/21/11]
Romney likes to sing “America the Beautiful” to show his love of the country. He may not know the song was inspired by the poetic beauty of Pikes Peak, one of the “purple mountains majesty” of Colorado’s public lands.