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Colorado public lands defender growling about Congress

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The Vail Valley’s mama grizzly over public lands isn’t taking the news well that the U.S. House is trying to make it easier for the federal government to deal away public lands.

A Democrat, state Sen. Kerry Donovan’s family goes generations deep into fighting to preserve the beauty and natural vitality of Colorado high country. Last year, she led the march to create the first state public lands day in the country, observed on the third Saturday in May each year.

Donovan’s grandfather, Bill Mounsey, led the push to preserve public lands in Colorado 50 years ago. He charted the boundaries for the Eagle’s Nest, the Flat Tops and the Weminuche wilderness areas for The Wilderness Society.

Her parents successfully sued the U.S. Forest Service in the early 1970s to prevent a timber sale in what would become the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness Area, while preservation efforts were pending before Congress.

If you know Donovan, you know it’s not a partisan thing with her. It’s a personal thing.

“Protecting and conserving public lands for everyone is a Colorado value,” Donovan said in a statement Thursday. “That’s why I was dismayed that on the first day of the new Congress, Washington Republicans passed a rule making it easier for public lands to be privatized. This runs counter to the fundamental, democratic principle that these lands are part of our heritage and belong to everyone. By implementing this rule change, land-grabbing politicians used a DC maneuver to pull a fast one on Coloradans, and have put Colorado’s public lands at risk of being sold off to the highest bidder.

“Public lands are critical to Colorado’s economy, create jobs, and are integral to our Colorado way of life. Actions speak louder than words, and this move signals a genuine threat to our public lands staying public, and pushes against the very foundation of democracy that these lands belong to all of us. I will not stand for this, and will continue to fight alongside my colleagues to keep our lands public and protected for future generations.”

Republicans in Colorado and Washington said nobody is selling off the Grand Canyon or the Roan Plateau, but local governments could do a better job of caring for many parcels and put them to some use to the taxpayers.

“Allowing communities to actually manage and use these lands will generate not only state and local income tax, but also federal income tax revenues,” U.S. House Natural Resources Committee spokeswoman Molly Block said in a statement. “Unfortunately, current budget practices do not fully recognize these benefits, making it very difficult for non-controversial land transfers between governmental entities for public use and other reasons to happen.”

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