Trashing Our Treasures
Despite the critical role that these landscapes play in protecting water quality and ecosystems, as well as providing outdoor recreation opportunities, too many of our public lands are under attack. Development, mining, drilling, and logging could destroy essential habitat for plants and wildlife and ruin the experience for nature-goers. The environmental laws that protect public lands are crucial to safeguarding them from this type of exploitation and preserving treasured places for future generations. Many Congressional leaders have been working to dismantle these very protections and open treasured landmarks to resource exploitation and development. This report highlights some of the most egregious attacks, which put some of the most sensitive and beloved places in the country at risk of being lost forever.
The most dangerous legislative threats to Colorado public lands:
Colorado is a state known for its natural beauty. Many of Colorado’s lands are protected from oil & gas drilling, industrial mining, and logging in order to preserve the state treasures for our generation and generations to come. Unfortunately bills moving through Congress threaten to open these beautiful landscapes to energy development and other forms of destruction.
One bill that threatens Colorado’s wilderness areas is the Wilderness Development Act (H.R.2834), proposed by Rep. Dan Benishek (R- MI) and cosponsored by Rep. Mike Coffman (R- CO). This bill could allow road building, truck traffic and potentially even energy development in the most sensitive and pristine areas of the state. The plants and animals in wilderness areas, particularly the large wild animals the state is known for, need expansive tracts of land in or- der to survive. Roads could tear through these landscapes, degrade forests and threaten wildlife. Runoff from roads and soil erosion pollutes lakes and streams, and emissions from trucks would contaminate the air. On top of damaging the environment, the recreation industry supported by wilderness areas would certainly suffer.
Another bill that would damage Colorado’s beautiful wilderness and roadless areas is H.R. 1581, proposed by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and cosponsored by Reps. Mike Coffman (R-CO), Scott Tipton (R-CO), and Doug Lamborn (R-CO), which could open 3,700,148 acres of wilderness to development.40 Colorado’s wilderness areas were set aside to re- main pristine and untouched, allowing ecosystems to thrive and people to enjoy the secluded environment. Like the Wilderness Development Act, this bill would circumvent existing environmental protections and allow the intrusion of roads, motorized vehicles, and logging in wilderness areas. This could dramatically disrupt plant and animal life—once damaged, these tracts of wilderness might never re- cover.
Finally, the Disposal of Federal Lands Act (H.R.1126), by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R- UT) would require the Bureau of Land Management to sell off “excess” public lands to the highest bidder. Within enough pressure from the oil and gas industry or other developers, Colorado’s unspoiled natural settings could be degraded and even lost forever. In a state where people understand the value of wilderness, public lands and clean water, oil and gas drilling and development could contaminate drinking water, pollute the air, destroy forests and threaten public health.