While the National Park Service celebrates its Centennial anniversary on August 25, a new report shows that the next century of conservation for Colorado needs to focus on protecting its public lands and ensuring access for its growing and diverse population. The state’s rapid growth – since 1990 more than 2.1 million people have moved to Colorado – is putting increased pressure on its public lands, where only 10 percent are permanently protected. Without protecting new areas and engaging Latinos and millennials as the stewards of tomorrow, Colorado risks losing valuable natural treasures that provide significant natural, cultural, heritage and economic value.
“As Colorado’s population continues to grow at one of the highest levels in the nation, it’s imperative that the state’s existing public lands are safeguarded against irresponsible oil and gas developments, community expansion and the movement to sell off these tax-payer owned lands,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF). “The shifting demographics of Colorado – the Latino population between 1990 and 2040 is expected to have grown over 500 percent – presents exciting opportunities to develop new public lands stewards and make sure future generations will be able to enjoy these lands as we do today.”
The new HAF report “The Next Colorado: Ensuring Access to Parks and Public Lands for Growing and Diverse Populations” compares the growth of the state’s population with just 10 percent of the state’s public lands that are permanently protected, underscoring the immediate vigilance needed to preserve these areas. The report also shows that while threats to Colorado’s public lands are plentiful, by permanently protecting new areas, utilizing government tools like master leasing plans, and engaging diverse and growing communities, Colorado will take steps forward in maintaining its natural resources that drive the economic engines of the tourism and recreation industries.
More than 40 Denver-area youth from Environmental Learning for Kids, Escuela Tlatelolco Centro de Estudios, and Nuestro Rio joined HAF at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge and were addressed by Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources Robert Randall, District 11 Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore, and Sen. Michael Bennet’s Regional Director Noah Koerper. Following the release, the youth visited the Refuge, played games to deepen their appreciation for the outdoors and explore the role they can play in the protection of Colorado’s public lands.
“We have seen a huge growth in the Latino population in Colorado since 1990, and with that growth we find ourselves facing a land shortage for recreation. Nuestro Rio, along with many other Latino organizations, are working to ensure access to public lands across Colorado so that generations to come will be able to enjoy our beautiful state,” Nita Gonzalez, State Director of Nuestro Rio and President of Escuela Tlatelolco Centro de Estudios.
“For the past 20 years ELK has opened new doors of opportunity by engaging urban youth and families in Colorado’s outdoors”, said Loretta Pineda, Executive Director of Environmental Learning for Kids. “The youth are an important piece to the puzzle to take action to protect and make our public lands inclusive and accessible to all and to work towards a diverse workforce in the management of our public lands.”