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The South Platte at Elevenmile Canyon, Colorado. Photo by Rich Holland

The South Platte at Elevenmile Canyon, Colorado. Photo by Rich Holland

Former Interior Secretary Salazar, NWF CEO and affiliates say keep public lands public

Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar joined Collin O’Mara, the National Wildlife Federation’s CEO and president, and business and conservation leaders Thursday to speak out for conserving America’s public lands and against attempts to sell or get rid of the lands that sustain fish and wildlife populations as well as hunting, fishing and the country’s multi-billion-dollar outdoor recreation industry.

The National Wildlife Federation’s 49 state affiliates have unanimously approved a resolution that calls for keeping public lands in public hands and opposes large-scale exchanges, sales or giveaways of federally managed lands. This week, 41 of the state affiliates sent a letter to the Republican National Committee asking that it rescind a resolution adopted this year that urges Congress to turn over public lands to the Western states that want them.

The affiliates noted that public lands help grow America’s economy by supporting an outdoor recreation industry that generates $646 billion in economic benefit annually and supports 6.1 million jobs. The organizations stressed that wise stewardship of the lands that belong to all Americans is a long tradition that cuts across political and social lines.

Shadow Mountain Lake, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Shadow Mountain Lake, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

“Despite the economic importance of federal lands to wildlife and people, they remain under constant threat. In recent years, several state legislative proposals have called on the federal government to transfer ownership of public lands to the states, which in turn would pass them off to private interests in many instances,” the organizations wrote.

The Interior Department’s latest annual economic report shows the agency’s programs and activities generated $360 billion in benefits and supported more than 2 million jobs nationwide in fiscal 2013. Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar started preparing the reports in 2009 to highlight the department’s contributions to the U.S. economy.

“The nation’s public lands are the birthright and priceless heritage of all Americans. Our policymakers and elected leaders should be working to preserve and enhance these multiple use economic engines,” said Salazar, who served as Interior secretary from 2009 to 2013.

The National Wildlife Federation is on the front lines of conserving fish and wildlife and the places where they live, and in large part those places are public lands, O’Mara said.

“The National Wildlife Federation, our 49 state affiliates, and four million members and supporters strongly support keeping our public lands in public hands. As a diverse federation of hunters, anglers, hikers, wildlife watchers, and nature lovers, we are united in our passion for protecting public lands, which provide amazing outdoor experiences for all Americans, landscapes for deer, elk, pronghorn, and bison herds to migrate, forests for grizzlies, bighorn sheep and lynx, and critical habitat for more than 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 1,000 species of fish and 250 reptile and amphibian species. For more than a century, protecting land for the benefit all outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife has been an essential element of the American experience—and we must pass on this legacy to future generations,” O’Mara said.

The wildlife federations have worked through the years to conserve the public lands necessary for fish and wildlife and hunting and fishing and will continue to do, said David Chadwick, Montana Wildlife Federation executive director.

“Every few decades this idea of selling off public land pops up, and public opinion always beats it back. Meanwhile, the challenges facing our national forests and other public lands have continued to grow,” Chadwick added. “We need our elected officials to quit wasting time on these speculative, ideological proposals and instead take action on the common-sense, collaborative efforts under way all over the country to improve land management.”

Hanging Lake, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Hanging Lake, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Surveys and polls show overwhelming support for public lands among voters in the West, the target of many of the drives to dispose of public land. That support extends beyond the region to other parts of the country where hunters, anglers and other wildlife enthusiasts enjoy the backcountry, rivers and forests, said Tim Gestwicki, the North Carolina Wildlife Federation CEO.

“Sportsmen and women and wildlife watchers in the Southeast value our public lands, from the Appalachians to the coast. We also value the Western lands and their abundant wildlife, big open spaces and great hunting and fishing. We stand with our fellow sportsmen and women in defending public lands and protecting the special places that offer some of the best of what this country is about,” Gestwicki said.

“Sportsmen are on the front line in this effort to prevent the transfer of federal public lands. These are the very lands where we hunt and fish, and where we pass on those traditions to our kids. The idea that somehow our federal public lands are dispensable is an affront to all hunters and anglers, and we are determined to protect these lands for ourselves and for future generations,” said Garrett VeneKlasen, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.

America’s national parks, monuments and rugged landscapes are not only a draw for people in this country, but across the world, said Peter Metcalf, CEO and president of Black Diamond, Inc., a leading manufacturer of outdoor sports equipment and clothing.

“No other country in the world has the public land infrastructure that we have. There’s such a richness of landscape and wildlife. Our public lands and outdoor recreation and lifestyles are coveted by people around the world and are a draw for communities and employers competing for new businesses and workers,” Metcalf said. “Black Diamond’s brand is synonymous with these iconic landscapes that capture the imagination of people all over the world. In addition they are a source of inspiration for our designers, engineers and marketing people.”

Additional Resources: `Valuing our Public Lands: Safeguarding our Economy and Way of Life,’

National Wildlife Federation affiliates’ resolution on transfer of public lands.

NWF affiliates’ letter on transfer, sale of public lands.

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THREE PARKS, LOTS OF ACTIVITIES

Cheyenne Mountain State Park Earth Day Weekend Events – Saturday, April 20

You don’t have to go far to get away in Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Just minutes from downtown Colorado Springs, Cheyenne Mountain State Park has an amazing diversity with prairie-to-peak ecosystems and 20 miles of hiking and biking trails throughout the 1,680 acres to explore.

Earth Day is Monday, April 22, but the staff and volunteers at the park have arranged some “pre-Earth Day” events.

Highway 115 Cleanup Project, 8 to 11 a.m., Saturday, April 20 at the Visitor Center parking lot.
Join park volunteers for a cleanup project along State Highway 115 from the park entrance to Pine Oaks Road. Minimum age is 10 years. All children must be accompanied by an adult. Bring gloves, water, hat, and sturdy shoes. Reservations required. Call 719-576-2016. Parks pass is not required.

Un-natural Trail Hike, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Saturday, April 20 at the Visitor Center.
On this naturalist-guided hike, test your powers of observation by looking for things that dont belong in the natural environment. Then, see if you can guess how long it takes for trash items like orange peels, cardboard, plastic bags, and Styrofoam to breakdown after they are discarded. Reservations required. Call 719-576-2016. Parks pass is required.

Junior Ranger Program – Wildlife Encounters, 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, April 20 at Camper Services.
Program for 7-12 year-olds and parents to learn how park rangers educate visitors about rattlesnakes, bears, and mountain lions. After training, junior rangers will test their knowledge by participating in a simulated wildlife encounter. Pick up a training booklet beforehand at the visitor center or receive one at class time. Junior rangers will receive a badge and patch depending on levels completed. Reservations required. Call 719-576-2016. Parks pass is required.

Cheyenne Mountain State Park is located at 410 JL Ranch Heights, 80926. To reach the park, travel south on Colorado Highway 115 and turn west directly across from Gate one at Fort Carson. Programs are free, unless otherwise noted, but all vehicles entering the park must have a $7 daily or a $70 annual State Parks pass. For more information, call 719-576-2016.

Earth Day Festival in Salida – Saturday, April 20

Brown's Canyon on the Arkansas River near Salida. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Brown’s Canyon on the Arkansas River near Salida. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Earth Day is just around the corner and on the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, the Greater Arkansas River Nature Association and Salida Recreation are hosting an Earth Day Party 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., April 20 at Riverside Park in downtown Salida.

There will be fun and entertainment for all ages. From 10 a.m. to noon, there will be exhibits and crafts including a geology touch table, animal skins and tracks, face painting, eco games, live alpacas, fire mitigation, tree health, Stay the Trail, a demonstration about water and much more.

At noon, the Pueblo Raptor Centers Diana Miller and her fascinating feathered friends will be at the Scout Hut to educate people about the lives, habits and little known facts of birds of prey.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., electronic recycling will be available for a minimal cost to get rid of all those old computers, TV’s and other stuff that have been cluttering your home.

To close the days events, the Salida Circus will start a parade through downtown Salida at 3 p.m. and will perform at Riverside Park at 4 p.m.

Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy a family day of celebration in honor of nature, the Arkansas River Valley and our planet Earth. For more information, contact Rose Bayless at AHRA at 719-539-728; Maggie Murdoch at Salida Recreation at 719-539-5703; or Amanda Harper at GARNA at 719-539-5106.

Earth Day Celebrations at Mueller State Park Sunday, April 21

DIVIDE, Colo. – The staff and volunteers at Mueller State Park will celebrate Earth Day on Sunday, April 21 with guided hikes, children’s activities and chance to learn about volcanoes.

Join volunteer naturalist Nancy Remmler at 10 a.m. in the Visitor Center Parking Lot for an Earth Day hike! Get out and enjoy the mountain-fresh air at Mueller. Enjoy a nice hike for adults and children alike; families welcome. The participants will determine the length and difficulty of the hike.

At 10 a.m., join volunteer naturalist Bob Hickey in the Visitor Center Auditorium for an engaging and eye-opening talk about volcanic rock and the role volcanoes played in the formation of the earth. There will be specimens and examples of the volcanic rocks in the region. There will be plenty of opportunity for discussion and Q & A and participants are encouraged to bring in their favorite rocks to show Bob.

At 11 a.m., volunteer naturalist Rose Banzhaf will host a children’s Earth Day arts and crafts fair. The art and crafts fair is perfect for the whole family; picture frame projects will be made and stories will be read. Afterwards, volunteer naturalist Carole Larkey will lead the children on a guided hike around the nature trail! Bring your Earth Day spirit, craft hands, and sturdy shoes for hiking! Families interested in attending the children’s program should RSVP by April 19 if interested in attending as the celebration is limited to 35 children participants. You may sign up at the Visitor Center, or call Chelsea Murray at 719-687-2366 ext.107 or email chelsea.murray@state.co.us.

At 1 p.m., Bob Hickey will give an encore presentation of his volcanic rocks presentation.

Earth Day programs at Mueller State Park are free, but you must have a $7 daily parks pass or a $70 annual pass on your vehicle to enter the park. Mueller State Park is located 4-miles south of Divide on Highway 67. For weather updates or for more information, call 719-687-2366.

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