Keep Colorado Wild
We are privileged to live in a state that has no rival when it comes to our outdoors and our iconic natural landscapes.
Colorado’s peaks, forests, valleys, rivers, deserts, and plains inspire millions of people who choose to call this state home. With a quality of life that can’t be beat and opportunities to recreate outside all year, open successful businesses, and raise healthy families, we are committed to protecting what makes Colorado so special — our pristine landscapes, our natural resources, and a world-class recreation economy. More than 71 percent of Coloradans participate in an outdoor recreation activity each year.
As Coloradans, we truly have a spiritual fellowship with our land and water that we rely on for our very lives.
Spending time outside recharges and challenges us as individuals, strengthens our bonds with family and friends, and is one of the primary reasons we are among the healthiest populations in the nation.
With Washington, D.C., abandoning its role in fighting climate change and protecting our environment and wildlife, it’s on us as Coloradans — those of us who love the outdoors and those whose livelihoods depend on it — to Keep Colorado Wild.
Keeping Colorado wild means resisting the urge to stand idly by as attempts are made to diminish access to our lands. We must roll up our sleeves and fight for the Colorado we know and love. That means ensuring conservation efforts and strengthening our recreation economy works in conjunction with our existing natural resource development.
This is plain old good economics, too. Every year, Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy contributes:
- $28 billion in consumer spending;
- 229,000 jobs which generate $9.7 billion in salaries and wages across the state; and
- $2 billion in state and local tax revenue.
Here is my plan to protect our public lands and our wildlife:
- Create Colorado Conservation and Recreation Districts — Colorado is home to 42 state parks and 13 National Parks which welcome millions of visitors per year. I will create Colorado Conservation and Recreation Districts that harness the economic power of these landscapes to highlight Colorado’s natural outdoor assets and promote each community’s unique attractions. Through a coordinated effort alongside conservationists, sportsmen and sportswomen, and the outdoor recreation industry, we will provide educational opportunities and access to grant funding to support conservation and recreational entrepreneurship. Housed under the shared jurisdiction of the Office of Economic Development and Colorado Parks & Wildlife, this program will help more Coloradans forge a special connection with our natural resources, further strengthening the Colorado economy.
- Oppose Selling Our Public Lands to the Highest Bidders — As governor, I will fight any attempt to sell our public lands to the highest bidder or diminish them in any way. Nearly a third of our state is made up of public lands, and these lands belong to all Coloradans, no matter their background, zip code, race, or income. Our public lands, clean air, and rivers are critical to protecting our fish and wildlife habitat, providing the public with places to hunt and fish, ski, climb, bike, raft, and enjoy the Colorado outdoor experience. The activities are foundational to Colorado’s recreation economy, providing good-paying jobs for thousands of Coloradans and attracting national attention through events like the Outdoor Retailer trade show. Thoughtful and effective conservation of these resources is paramount in supporting Colorado’s strong outdoor economy and way of life.
- Ensure Colorado Has a Voice in Federal Decisions on its Public Lands — Coloradans understand in our core that public lands have value far beyond industrial development. As governor, I will work to ensure that our public lands are protected from overzealous development and that every Coloradan has every opportunity to have their voices heard in these decisions that affect the future of these lands. Colorado deserves a strong seat at the table here and in D.C. when it comes to conversations about what happens to the land, wildlife, trails, and resources in our backyards.
- Improve Funding for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Division — CPW manages 42 state parks, facilitates wildlife and habitat management issues, and is responsible for issuing hunting and fishing licenses, which fund much of the Division’s budget. A lack of sustained, adequate funding has forced us to cut down on maintenance to 110 dams in Colorado and has begun to threaten the work of managing state land. Our current funding system relies on user fees rather than general tax dollars, and places 80 percent of CPW’s funding burden on hunters and anglers. Unfortunately, this is not sufficient to get the job done, especially as public demands and expectations for outdoor recreation grow. Our natural environment is a public resource that we all have a stake in. As governor, I will assemble a Commission of outdoor recreation representatives, sportsmen and sportswomen, and environmental experts to develop a sustainable, fair, and sufficient plan to fund CPW. For example, I will explore modernized ways for people to contribute to maintaining our parks. One possible option would be to digitize the voluntary donation boxes found at trailheads across the state to make investing in protecting our open spaces as easy as using Venmo to pay your friends for dinner.
- Provide More Resources for Wildlife Habitat Restoration, Conservation, and Enhancement — Our biodiversity is our strength. Today, there are about 2,300 species listed under the Endangered Species Act. State wildlife agencies across the country have identified more than 12,000 species that are in serious decline, and thus are in greatest conservation need. By the middle of this century, as many as 50 percent of all species could be heading toward extinction, leading to more and more ESA listings and conflicts with the private sector. When populations of critical species collapse, it throws entire ecosystems irreparably out of whack. I support the work of Johnny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops, and former Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Non-Game Habitat Funding, which recommend that Congress provide states with $1.3 billion per year to improve habitat for non-game species. As Governor, I will have the experience as a former Member of Congress to ensure that Colorado is advocating effectively for federal funding, is on the front lines of wildlife habitat restoration efforts, and works closely with neighboring states on habitat conservation and wildlife corridors.
- Require Habitat Mitigation for Habitat Damaged from Development — It is becoming a more common practice for western states and federal agencies to require companies that develop projects, like oil and gas wells and wind farms, to pay private ranchers to enhance or restore habitat on their lands to compensate for habitat damaged in the development process. Colorado should join our western neighbors in adopting this requirement, which would improve habitat across the state, helping wildlife and providing a new revenue stream for participating ranchers.
- Support Full Funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) — This $900-million per year fund was established in 1964 to help conserve America’s natural resources, but only twice since then has it been fully funded. This program has broad support among sportsmen and sportswomen, environmentalists, and the outdoor recreation community. I will work with my fellow governors and the Colorado Congressional delegation to generate sufficient political support to reauthorize and fully fund the program.
- Expand Use of Wildlife Crossings — Collisions between vehicles and wildlife are common in Colorado, often leading to dead animals and damaged cars and trucks. Wildlife fencing and overpass crossings, such as those recently constructed on Highway 9 between Silverthorne and Kremmling, have dramatically reduced wildlife collisions. I will work with CDOT to undertake a systematic evaluation of hotspots in Colorado where vehicle-wildlife collisions are common and develop a multi-year plan to install wildlife fencing and crossings using public and private resources.
- Protect Our Bears and Wild Horses — This past year had one of the highest number of human-bear conflict incidents in recent history. Our changing climate has altered feeding cycles and has led to a rising number of bears wandering into cities and towns in search of trash or alternative sources of food. Unfortunately, this too often results in CPW having to kill bears to prevent any danger to the community. As governor, I will sign an executive order requesting that CPW evaluate alternative methods to mitigate human-bear conflicts. This will include developing and executing a marketing plan that educates Coloradans in how to prevent luring bears into towns. CPW will then study the results of these efforts to ensure we are making progress in reducing human-bear encounters. I will also seek to preserve Colorado’s historic wild horse herds, and oppose inhumane methods of population control, like confinement and castration, in favor of more humane methods to maintain a healthy population.
A Vision for Colorado’s Outdoors
Colorado’s outdoors offers a multitude of benefits, including social and health benefits, but it is also the foundation of a powerful economic engine that drives innovation, employment, and consumer spending. Our outdoors has the power to transform the economies of communities across the state.
In addition to direct economic benefits, there are many indirect benefits that come from investment in Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy. While hundreds of “homegrown” outdoor businesses have launched here, other national and international companies are moving to Colorado for its highly educated workforce, access to the outdoors, and a population that is healthy and active. As a result, Colorado’s outdoor recreation industry supports almost $10 billion in wages, salaries, and benefits, and fuels more than $28 billion in consumer spending in our state.
Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy is being threatened by climate change, with the outdoor industry and agriculture being among the first to experience its impacts. From longer, hotter summers, and increasingly devastating wildfires, to decreased snowpack and subsequent water shortages, leadership at the state and local levels to address climate change has never been more important, particularly in the absence of leadership at the national level.
Like the broader economy, Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy requires solutions that promote smart and well-managed growth, including land use that balances growth with conservation of public and private lands and accessible trails, and which sets a goal of a park or other open space within ten minutes of every home in Colorado.
Here is my plan to protect and promote recreation in our great outdoors:
- Improve Our Transportation Infrastructure — We will develop and implement transportation infrastructure plans that consider trails, bike paths, and other recreation infrastructure as alternatives and supplements to congested roads and highways.
- Support Reauthorization of the Colorado Lottery Division — The Colorado Lottery Division funds the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund (GOCO) and the Conservation Trust Fund and contributes to CPW. I will support ensuring this funding source remains intact. Grants from GOCO directly support 11,800 jobs and provide more than $507 million in labor income. Securing funding for this program is important to Colorado’s economy.
- Increase Access for Sportsmen and Sportswomen — Sportsmen and sportswomen often lack sufficient access to places to hunt and fish. I support the proposal to dedicate 1 percent of LWCF funds for improved access to federal lands. I will also explore expanding Colorado’s Ranching for Wildlife program, and Farm Bill Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program funding in Colorado to pay private landowners to open their lands to hunting and fishing if they choose.
- Invest Royalties from Development on State Lands in Habitat Remediation and Recreation Infrastructure similar to the way the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) operates using federal offshore drilling royalties.
- Increase High Quality, Fun, Safe Shooting Ranges for Sportsmen and Sportswomen — To help reduce dispersed shooting in inappropriate areas and improve safety and fun, I will work with local authorities, and the various groups that sportsmen and sportswomen belong to, such as Ducks Unlimited and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, to build and maintain shooting ranges convenient for residents.
“Here is a land where life is written in water…”
Colorado’s water is our lifeblood, our most valuable natural resource, and is essential to our very brand as a state.
Eighteen downstream states, and Mexico, receive water that starts here in our snowpack. Our nine interstate compacts and two equitable apportionment decrees mean that we have access to roughly one third of the water that accumulates in our state annually. Moreover, our water is under stress from both a warmer climate and growing populations. We must strategically plan for such a critical aspect of Colorado’s economy and environment. I support the first Colorado’s Water Plan developed under Governor John Hickenlooper, and, as your Governor, will strive to implement, fund, and update that plan, including conservation measures for the benefit of our economy and environment.
As Colorado’s Water Plan states, “People love Colorado.” People want to grow their families and businesses here because of our high quality of life, productive economy, vibrant and sustainable cities, innovative spirit, viable and productive agriculture, access to locally grown food, strong environment, robust outdoor recreation opportunities, and healthy watersheds, rivers, and streams. Water touches or runs through what we love about Colorado. As your Governor, I will protect our right to use water that originates here, while planning for a warmer, drier, more populated future. Colorado’s Water Plan was built from the grassroots up with the many voices of Colorado’s water community… Let’s face it, we’re all stakeholders when it comes to water.
Gone are the days when one part or industry of our state runs roughshod over another when it comes to water. As our history has shown, water can divide Colorado. But, as Colorado’s Water Plan demonstrates, water can also unite us. This is hard but rewarding work. We must harness our grassroots structure to implement smart water infrastructure and conservation measures that attack the forecasted gap between supply and demand.
Here is my policy roadmap for water in Colorado:
- Implement Colorado’s Water Plan
Our state’s water plan calls for the conservation of 400,000 acre feet of additional water storage, and 400,000 acre feet of additional water conservation, as well as conservation of 50,000 acre feet of alternatives to the buy-and-dry of our irrigated agricultural lands. I will work to do even better by our state’s water system by leveraging new technology and best practices to prioritize conservation.
We will also ensure that we meet our goal to have 80 percent of locally prioritized rivers and 80 percent of critical watersheds covered by stream management and watershed protection plans. We can’t accomplish any of this without responsible funding of municipal, industrial, environmental, and recreational water infrastructure, as well as prioritizing the integration of local land-use and water planning.
- Update Colorado’s Water Plan
It will be up to the next Governor to upgrade our waterfunding, financing, and investment mechanisms to take advantage of new revenue streams and partnerships to fully fund the water plan.
We will prioritize refreshing our water data with recent drought and hydrologic information, and our policies will reflect updated Basin Implementation Plans from our Basin Roundtables across the state. This will allow us to identify regional water opportunities where integrated water systems, and water management, can produce a more resilient water supply. Additionally, we can advance our water reuse capability by removing regulatory barriers and incentivizing water reuse without injury to downstream water rights.
- Safeguard Colorado’s Water Quality and Quantity
Under my leadership, Colorado will resist federal efforts to dictate water decisions. Management of Colorado’s water is best left to Coloradans, and we will resist attempts to export our water to moneyed interests outside of our state. I will continue the work of formulating interstate contingency plans that benefit Colorado and which can be implemented as we face warmer temperatures, reduced precipitation, and diminished reservoir levels. Finally, we can make the permitting process more efficient and effective for water projects. We must be able to address changing water supply and demand with more agility than we currently demonstrate.
Colorado is ready to apply its brand of innovation to its water challenges. We can and will lead the nation on water policy, management, and innovation as the headwaters state. When other states face water stress or need to solve a critical water challenge, Colorado can and should be the model of how to succeed.
- Collaborative Approach to Transmountain Diversions
To many Coloradans in the high country and on the Western Slope, future transmountain diversions pose an existential threat to the health of our rivers and our agriculture economy. Meanwhile, the towns and cities of the Front Range are rapidly growing, and so are their water needs. Our state currently diverts between 450,000 and 600,000 acre feet of water from the Western Slope to the Front Range each year. We must adhere to a collaborative process that results in balanced approaches to solving this issue in the future.
That’s why I support the conceptual framework agreed upon by our state’s Western and Eastern basin roundtables to manage the consideration of any proposed future diversions. I will enforce its use should the need ever arise. The seven principles of this agreement include: conservation; storage; agricultural transfers; alternative transfer methods; environmental resiliency; a collaborative program to address Colorado River system shortages, already identified projects and processes (IPPs); and additional Western Slope uses. This should provide context for any discussion regarding future diversions.