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Colorado Celebrates National Public Lands Day

Saturday marks the 23rd annual National Public Lands Day. A little more than one-third of Colorado land is publicly owned. (Pixabay)
Saturday marks the 23rd annual National Public Lands Day. A little more than one-third of Colorado land is publicly owned. (Pixabay)
September 23, 2016

DENVER – Saturday marks the 23rd annual National Public Lands Day, and Colorado is joining the celebration of the nation's parks, forests, monuments and other publicly-owned lands.

Garett Reppenhagen, Rocky Mountain director for the Vet Voice Foundation, served in Kosovo and Iraq, and said he has a special appreciation for people across the country who are volunteering to clean up parks, plant trees and maintain trails as a way to honor our natural legacy.

"They're the lands that I love, the lands that I swore to protect and defend," he said. "And now that I'm home, they're the lands that also helped me heal, and allow me to create better bonds with my friends and family after long deployments at war."

He said it's also a day to remember that public lands can't be taken for granted, and notes more than two-million acres of open spaces are lost each year in the U.S. to commercial and industrial development.

National lands are also a critical economic driver. Outdoor recreation contributes over $10 billion annually
to Colorado's economy, supports more than 100,000 jobs, and adds some $500 million to the state's tax coffers, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

Brian Raitman operates two art galleries, one in Vail and one in Breckenridge. He said people come to Colorado to experience the state's natural beauty, and many buy art to take a piece of it back home.

"We have such a good economy because of our public lands," he said. "And so, keeping them open and undeveloped is just so important to what everything the state always has been and hopefully, always will be."

About 35 percent of Colorado land is publicly owned, from the Rocky Mountain peaks to arid mesas and red-rock canyons dotted with ancient ruins and petroglyphs. Raitman said access to unspoiled places everyone can enjoy is worth celebrating.

Find events by state here.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO