“Public Lands: Valuable to Our Bottom Line and Way of Life,” written by Osprey Packs co-founder & co-owner Diane Wren, originally appeared in the Montrose Press.
Twenty five years ago, my husband Mike and I moved from the coastal redwoods of California to the edge of sandstone canyon country in the San Juan Mountains in the hopes of building a headquarters for our homegrown company – Osprey Packs – that would allow us to test our handmade gear in the most inspiring and rugged of places. After settling in Cortez, Osprey quickly became an international force in the outdoor industry, and we’ve been proud to grow our classic American dream in southwestern Colorado. We now employ over 80 people in Cortez and are still growing. Like many other international outdoor businesses across Colorado, we chose to build a business here because access to public lands makes this the perfect spot for our employees to settle down, for us to try out our next idea in the field, and because so many in our community share our love for getting outside and exploring our wild West.
The same incredible landscapes that drew us to Colorado, though, are now facing a serious threat. Out-of-state special interests like the American Lands Council are pushing legislators across the Rockies to try to seize our national public lands and transfer them into state control, which could bankrupt our states and lead to massive access closures. Colorado is lucky enough to have 24 million acres of federal public lands within our borders, but the state managing them would cost Coloradans over $300 million a year, and a single wildfire could add tens of millions of dollars to the bill. Our state is constitutionally bound to balance its budget – this additional financial burden would likely force the state to prioritize extractive uses or sell off our lands to the highest bidder for private development.
Getting locked out of our land would not only be bad for Coloradans, it would threaten businesses like ours that rely on the public’s ability to enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, climbing, and skiing for our livelihood. Outdoor recreation contributes $13 billion to Colorado’s economy annually and supports over 122,000 jobs statewide. Undercutting our industry would be a big blow to the state and especially small towns like ours which serve as gateways to the great outdoors. Osprey, for example, is hoping to hire 14 more employees in Cortez this year – having to “pay to play” or being excluded entirely from places like the San Juan Mountains, Canyon of the Ancients, and our renowned local mountain biking haven, Phil’s World, would make attracting good talent much more difficult.
We, along with millions of other Coloradans, have built businesses and homes here distinctly because of our access to these wild places. Losing them would be a huge blow to our bottom lines and way of life. On top of that, we have a responsibility to preserve and protect places like the Uncompahgre National Forest, Dolores River Canyon, and Chimney Rock for future generations to enjoy and explore. Over 70 percent of voters in Colorado think our national public lands should remain open for the enjoyment of all Americans, and we agree – our land is part of our shared outdoor heritage, and part of what makes this country so great. Simply put, these land grabs are bad for our families, and bad for business. On behalf of Osprey, I urge our elected officials to address these efforts to transfer or sell off our public lands with loud and swift opposition.
- The Wilderness Society, “Keep America’s public lands in public hands“
- Will Rogers via The New York Times, “Our Land, Up For Grabs“
- The Trust for Public Land
- San Juan Citizens Alliance
- Petition: Tell elected officials not to sell our forests and wildlands to the highest bidder via The Wilderness Society
- Share why nature matters to you via The Trust for Public Land