It’s been a busy year for many of us, trying to keep our businesses going in these tough economic times. I own a mountaineering, ski and kayak shop and have run a river outfitting business here in Steamboat Springs since 1986.
Although I’ve been involved in my own world of business and family life, I have also watched the events in Congress this past summer and fall with a mix of disgust and alarm.
Week after week, our congressional leaders, including Colorado’s own Rep. Scott Tipton and Rep. Mike Coffman, have argued for eliminating environmental regulations in the name of economic growth. If enacted, these bills actually would have a profoundly negative impact on our local economies, regional wilderness and public lands. Many of the proposals reflect a misguided belief that protecting the environment requires us to sacrifice our economy. However, balancing the health of our environment against a healthy economy is a false choice. Both are needed and possible.
As an avid outdoorsman and a local businessman, I understand that we need to protect our great outdoors and quality of life to keep our tourism and recreation economy growing while encouraging more businesses to relocate, hire new employees and thrive right here in Colorado.
Conservation is not an expense and does not hinder economic growth; rather, it is an investment that pays dividends for all of us. When we preserve, conserve and are wise stewards of our land and water, we create and support jobs associated with tourism and agriculture. We can grow our economy while simultaneously passing on a vital natural legacy to our children and grandchildren. It’s a win-win.
I am not sure why our politicians don’t get it; they’ve been promoting extreme policies that would strip Colorado of everything that makes it great. One of the more disturbing proposals is the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011, introduced by Rep. Kevin McCarthy, from California, and co-sponsored by Rep. Tipton.
Tipton’s Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011 would dangerously reverse existing protections for tens of millions of acres of unprotected wilderness — quality public lands and national forests. It’s part of Congress’ bigger great outdoors giveaway plan to undermine basic conservation protections. If this bill passes, some of our nation’s most fragile natural landscapes would be left vulnerable to oil and gas development and reckless road construction. It would also open the Grand Canyon, our nation’s treasure, to increased uranium mining.
The Wilderness Release Act allocates public lands, used by all of us, for many incompatible and destructive uses. Oil and gas development would compete for access to areas of our national parks resulting in the loss of tourism and recreation-related jobs. If these outdoor opportunities vanish, they would also take with them billions in state tax revenue that supports our communities.
As a Western Slope native and small-businessman who relies on tourist visits to the Four Corners area, Tipton should know better. He should know that our outdoor recreation and tourism industries mean billions for Colorado and his district, and that his extreme proposal would negatively impact these industries.
In a recession, taking away jobs, contaminating our water and trashing the places that people want to visit, live, work, play and raise their families makes absolutely no sense.
Peter Van De Carr is a Steamboat Springs resident. When he’s not working at Backdoor Sports you can find him with his dog and kids fishing, kayaking, climbing, skiing and camping on and around the Yampa River.