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CO Businesses Urge Gardner to Protect Continental Divide, Camp Hale

Mountain bikers have joined with veterans, conservation groups, local elected officials and other outdoor recreationists in support of preserving lands in Summit and Eagle counties. (Pixabay)
Mountain bikers have joined with veterans, conservation groups, local elected officials and other outdoor recreationists in support of preserving lands in Summit and Eagle counties. (Pixabay)
May 3, 2018

DENVER – More than 90 Colorado businesses sent a letter Thursday urging U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner to support the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness and Camp Hale Legacy Act.

The measure would protect nearly 100,000 acres of the White River National Forest in Summit and Eagle counties.

Meaghan Ziegler with the Ebert Family Clinic says she hopes Gardner will join the effort to preserve the landscape that has become the lifeblood of local economies.

"This is a bipartisan bill,” she points out. “This is something that is important to all parts of our community and our state.

“What drives our business is our recreational lands and our wilderness areas, people being able to come into them and utilize our services."

The letter, sent during National Small Business Week, notes that outdoor recreation generates $28 billion in Colorado, and supports nearly 230,000 jobs.

The bill also would designate Camp Hale, training grounds for the 10th Mountain Division during World War II, as America's first National Historic Landscape.

Critics worry the designations could stifle some kinds of commercial development.

Gardner's office did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.

The legislation, introduced earlier this year by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Jared Polis, both Colorado Democrats, won support from veterans, outdoor recreationists, conservation groups and local elected officials.

Erin Young, who runs the Red Buffalo Café in Silverthorne, says the measure is particularly important for small business owners who operate at the mercy of good, or bad, snowfall during ski seasons.

"If I know as a business owner that this is protected forever, then I can map out my growth according to that,” she points out. “I'm not going to be so in limbo of 'well, maybe it was just because of the season.'"

A recent survey from Colorado College found 96 percent of the state's residents think the outdoor recreation economy is important to Colorado's economic future, and 87 percent say public lands give the West an economic advantage.

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

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO