May 15 marks the fifth annual Colorado Public Lands Day. In May of 2016, Colorado became the first state in the nation to establish a state holiday for our public lands. Colorado Public Lands Day is an opportunity to celebrate public lands, which are central to our economy and our quality of life.
The COVID-19 crisis highlights the importance of nature and open spaces to Coloradans. The past year emphasized more than ever before that investments in Colorado’s lands, waters, and wildlife are critical pieces of a recovery that builds back better by creating family-supporting jobs and protecting public health.
This Public Lands Day, the focus is on celebrating the public lands that connect us to each other and our communities. Conservation Colorado in conjunction with Colorado Public Lands Day has the goal of conserving and restoring 30 percent of Colorado’s land and water by 2023.
Locally, Chaffee County Residents are encouraged to participate in the Greater Arkansas River Nature Association and Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s “CleanupGreenup” event.
Ark Valley Voice spoke with GARNA Executive Director, Dominique Naccarato about the biggest issues our public lands face and solutions to said issues.
Naccarato explained “Impacts like trash and litter have always been an issue. We don’t want that going into the Arkansas River so the CleanupGreenup is instrumental in keeping it out of the river. The clean-up goes throughout the whole watershed, it’s not just along the banks of the Arkansas.”
“Growing outdoor recreation is starting to be the biggest impact to our public lands which we are working hard to address through the Envision Community Rec Plan Project and Envision Recreation and Balance,” said Naccarato. Click here to learn more and preregister for the event.
Executive Director of the Central Colorado Conservancy, Adam Beh explained that even though the Conservancy deals mostly with private land, through cooperation and partnerships, they are helping to keep our public lands wild.
“As a land trust, traditionally we have been centered on private lands with easements and acquisitions but as the private land conservation movement moves on and evolves we’re realizing that conservation easements on private lands exclusively isn’t everything that we can contribute to the broader conservation movement. Private lands can also be adjacent to public lands and those lands become a pretty high priority for us especially as we stay connected to our public land management agencies (the U.S. Forest Service and the BLM).”
“I think there’s a lot of potential ahead with open communication, with public land management agencies and the land trust community where we could better prioritize where some of those investments could go”, said Beh.
Easements are a tool used for conservation so that land isn’t developed but instead kept wild. Recently the conservancy purchased 100 acres running two miles along the Arkansas River at the Twin Lakes cutoff, from Balltown up to Twobit Gulch. They then transferred the land into an easement with Colorado Open Lands. This land has a public access point which will be managed by the Lake County government. “This is a brand new space for us where we’re a private landowner but we’re allowing public access and we’re working with a public agency to manage that.”
“We’re not the only land trust to ever do something like that but it’s the first time we’ve done that and part of that is because we recognize this growing movement and interest in public access and equitable access,” he concluded.
Though the state is slowly starting to open up more, and the end of the pandemic is in sight, it’s still not here. Participants in Public Lands Day events are encouraged to enjoy public lands responsibly and follow the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recommendations in order to protect yourself and those around you. To learn more about recreating responsibly while social distancing, click here.
This year’s events will be held virtually with a range of activities and events that celebrate the meaningful connections we have with public lands and waters across Colorado. To see the full list of events, click here.