Colorado has a history of setting and achieving big, bold goals and this upcoming legislative session is no different. There are several exciting conservation bills that could impact the Western Slope: SB21-249 (Keep Colorado Wild Annual Pass), HB21-1318 (Create Outdoor Equity Grant Program), HB21-1266 (Environmental Justice Disproportionate Impacted Community), and SB21-200 (Reduce Greenhouse Gases Increase Environmental Justice). If passed, these bills would protect our natural areas and invest in our communities.
Colorado’s natural landscapes are central to our identity, economy, and way of life. To protect the Colorado we love and leave a legacy for our children, scientists tell us that we must work to protect and restore 30 percent of Colorado’s lands and water by 2030. Conserving these places is also key in the fight against climate change, and we can’t leave Colorado’s prized public parks behind. Furthermore, the COVID-19 crisis highlights how important open spaces are to Coloradans, which makes it more clear than ever before that investments in our lands, waters, and wildlife are critical pieces of a recovery that rebuilds better than before with job creation and public health. Unfortunately, a lack of funding for conservation efforts at both the federal and state levels has put our natural areas at risk. According to the 2021 Conservation in the West poll by Colorado College, an overwhelming number of Coloradans believe investing in parks and wildlife means future opportunities to expand and open new parks, while increasing wildlife conservation efforts, and providing greater opportunities for people to access nature.
Senate Bill 21-249, also known as Keep Colorado Wild Annual Pass, would ensure that all Coloradans have the opportunity to support and access our state parks and other public lands. The bill directs Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) to create a discounted, vehicle-displayed “Keep Colorado Wild Pass” or “Wild Pass” that will be added when Coloradans register their passenger vehicles, light trucks, motorcycles, and recreational vehicles starting in 2023. The Wild Pass will cost no more than $40, which is half of the current price of a parks pass, and will provide access to Colorado’s 42 state parks and other participating public lands. Coloradans can opt out of this program while registering their vehicles, but the price of the Wild Pass will decrease as participation increases and a discounted price will be available for under-resourced households. The revenue raised from these passes will be directed towards CPW’s future investments in public lands, outdoor recreation, and wildlife conservation. These goals include: strengthening our existing park system, protecting and engaging outdoor recreationists, and investing in wildlife conservation and outdoor recreation. For each $1 million spent in conservation activities, between 17 and 31 jobs are supported depending on the industry where the investment is made. Therefore, the Colorado Wild Pass is an important path for both protecting our natural environment and wildlife populations and supporting an effective and efficient recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.
Among other relevant bills are: House Bill 21-1318 (Create Outdoor Equity Grant Program), House Bill 21-1266 (Environmental Justice Disproportionate Impacted Community), and Senate Bill 21-200 (Reduce Greenhouse Gases Increase Environmental Justice). The Outdoor Equity Grant Program (HB21-1318) would increase access and opportunity for underserved youth and their families to experience Colorado’s open spaces, state parks, public lands, and other outdoor areas. House Bill 21-1266 would help embed equity and justice into all of Colorado’s environmental laws, policies, programs, and processes moving forward, helping ensure that everyone – regardless of race, ethnicity, language, income, or other factors – can live in a clean, safe, and healthy environment. Finally, Senate Bill 21-200 would help the state in meeting its critical climate goals with an equity lens by ensuring that communities most impacted by climate change have a seat at the table. Each of these proposed pieces of legislation would enhance the natural environment and open spaces that Coloradans value, increase access to these areas by all Colorado residents, promote the creation of jobs and recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, and ensure that our heritage is preserved indefinitely.
The Western Slope Conservation Center is working hard to advocate for legislation such as these bills to conserve our pristine ecosystems and thriving wildlife populations while also protecting our heritage and way of life here on the western slope of Colorado. We can’t do that without the support of our volunteers and members. To get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org.