Joey BunchJoey BunchJune 20, 20173min396

Peace and quiet in Colorado’s great outdoors has a value all its own, according to a study released Tuesday by the independent economic analysts ECONorthwest.

In 2015, non-motorized recreation such as camping, hiking, climbing, hunting, mountain biking and rafting attracted 1.23 million visits to public lands from the mountains to the plains, generating $54.3 million in direct spending within 50 miles of the sites.

The report, called “Quiet Recreation on BLM-Managed Lands in Eastern Colorado,” cites 693 jobs supported by non-motorized use of  BLM Lands.

The full report is here.

Colorado Politics told you last month that BLM’s Royal Gorge Field Office is developing the Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan to guided uses of the 658,000 acres of BLM-controlled land and 3.3 million acres of mineral rights on the eastern side of the state.

Luis Benitez, director of the state’s two-year-old Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, said Colorado tourism is about more than being the country’s top destination for overnight ski visits.

“In order to ensure that our rural communities continue to thrive we will promote a conservation ethic that elevates the connection between outdoor recreation and the economic and financial viability of communities and the state,” said Benitez, an Eagle County mountaineer and a trustee for the town of Eagle until he was appointed to his state job by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

David Leinweber, the owner and president of Colorado Springs-based Angler’s Covey and chairman of the Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance, said in a statement that his customers depend on public lands.

“The easy access and close proximity of BLM lands is essential to our ability to engage in these activities and be a successful company,” he said. “This study is the latest evidence that outdoor recreation is not only a key reason why we call Colorado home but also fuels our local economies.”

In a separate study, using 2012 figures, the Outdoor Industry Association says recreation generates $13.2 billion in consumer spending statewide and $994 million in local, state and federal taxes each year.

Joey BunchJoey BunchMay 4, 20175min270

A Spanish music broadcaster in Greeley says a Bureau of Land Management plan in the works could deeply affect future Coloradans who use public lands.

The Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan could affect generations of residents and tourists who love the outdoors, contends William Neidig, owner and president of La Familia Broadcasting in Greeley.

He penned an op-ed for the state’s newspapers, and Colorado Politics snagged the first copy. (As it should always.)

Tipton, Lamborn and Polis pass Colorado public lands bills

Neidig contends the importance of making local voices heard in the plan is crucial. The plan will guide every decision on how 658,000 acres of BLM-controlled land and 3.3 million acres of mineral rights from the mountains across the plains will be managed for generations.

The public review is open until Friday, then the BLM will develop a first draft of the plan tentatively the rest of the year. Once that’s done, there will be a 90-day public comment period on the draft. The BLM has already held public hearings across the region.

Neidig is a hunter, camper and 4×4 enthusiast.

“I am a strong believer in a balanced approach to the continued management of these lands in the BLM’s Resource Management Plan revision,” he writes.

“While I enjoy four-wheeling on public lands, certain wild places of critical ecological and economic importance to local communities need to be set aside and protected for wildlife and quiet uses like hunting, hiking and fishing. Future generations need to be able to enjoy the same lands we enjoy. Sportsmen, backpackers and the outdoor industry all benefit from a balanced approach to conservation.”

Neidig said his love of Colorado’s outdoors began before he could walk, on fishing trips with his grandfather in Fairplay.

“That connection to the wild, the openness, the escape from the concrete jungle, it’s one of the most important things we can do to feel human,” he said. “My hunting buddies and I always joke with each other that tourists will pay thousands of dollars to experience just one week in the same wilderness we all enjoy right here in our backyard.”

He argues that there are business impacts associated with the plan, as well, however.

He cites a report by the Outdoor Industry Association that found outdoor recreation in Colorado generates $994 million in state and local taxes and supports 125,000 jobs.

Neidig said those who “flock to Colorado to hike or camp in Cucharas Canyon, or mountain bike in the Gold Belt Region support locally-owned hotels, restaurants, shops, and recreation companies. These locally-owned businesses, and the thousands of jobs they provide to Coloradans, depend on access to the cherished mountain ranges, woodlands, prairies, and streams on public lands.”

Comments on the plan can be e-mailed to ecrmp.comments@blm.gov or faxed to 719-269-8599.

BLM says relevant comments include those on:

  • Issues BLM has not considered or on issues BLM has identified.
  • Additional planning criteria.
  • Information that can be used when developing alternatives.
  • Reasonable alternatives.
  • Information useful as BLM considers impacts of alternatives.
  • Concerns, with reasoning, about resources in the planning area.
  • Concerns, with reasoning, about uses of public lands in the planning area.
  • Specific changes to the landscape or management actions.
  • Questions, with reasonable basis, the accuracy of information in a report already created.

“What we have in Colorado is one of the most unique landscapes in the country and it stimulates economic activity that we rely upon,” Neidig concludes.

“Eroding these protections will permanently damage the places that make Colorado such a great place to live. That is why I would like to see the revised management plan strike a balance among all the uses of public lands including development, conservation, and recreation.”


Mike McKibbinMike McKibbinApril 17, 20175min405

While the state and federal governments have different definitions regarding the legality of marijuana, it's an even murkier picture when it come to marijuana's far less potent cousin, industrial hemp. And, as the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported, the differences surfaced over a water issue in southeastern Colorado. The Bureau of Reclamation denied a farmer's request for water because part of his crop was hemp. Further complicating the matter, the 2014 Farm Bill defined hemp as distinct from marijuana. There's a bill in the Colorado Legislature that brought the issue to light, so stay tuned.


John TomasicJohn TomasicMarch 16, 20175min544

President Trump’s "America First" budget blueprint, which proposes to boost military spending while historically slashing scientific research paid for through agency budgets, is meant in part to send a signal of “<a href="http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/16/politics/donald-trump-budget-blueprint/" target="_blank">hard power</a>” dedication to military might, according to administration officials, but it may cost many research and field jobs around the country and at home in Colorado, according to <a href="https://medium.com/the-colorado-lookout/think-that-what-happens-at-federal-agencies-doesnt-have-much-of-an-impact-in-colorado-37f0cd68158f#.dxp0q9cid" target="_blank">numbers gathered</a> by Conservation Colorado working off of federal data. Colorado is home to a host of federal agency offices. Conservation Colorado found that nearly 38,000 residents work as full-time employees for federal agencies here. Nearly 11,500 residents work for agencies conducting scientific research.


Mike McKibbinMike McKibbinFebruary 20, 20177min343

One of Colorado's U.S. Senators is strongly opposed to a measure that would roll back an Obama administration rule to prevent the flaring and wasting of methane and natural gas developed on public and tribal lands, while the second is undecided. The rule was among several environmental regulations issued in the last days of the Obama administration. The U.S. House invoked the rarely used Congressional Review Act to reverse the rule. Colorado Republican U.S. Reps. Scott Tipton, Ken Buck, Doug Lamborn and Mike Coffman voted for House Joint Resolution 36 to repeal the rule on Feb. 3, while Democratic U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis voted to keep the rule in place. The measure passed by a 221-191 tally. It had yet to have its first Senate committee hearing.


John TomasicJohn TomasicFebruary 3, 20174min408

Frustrated Coloradans have been <a href="https://durangoherald.com/articles/131466-frustrated-residents-seek-response-from-sen-cory-gardner" target="_blank">complaining</a> since Inauguration Day that Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner won't answer their calls or return email messages. They have called to complain about President Donald Trump's cabinet nominations and executive orders. They're worried about environmental and civil rights proposals. They want to know where Gardner stands and why he stands where he stands. The list of concerns is growing longer not shorter. And a new round of phone calls is set to begin.