Conservation Colorado's campaign to protect public land

By Beau Kiklis (Conservation Colorado)


** This article was originally published in the February 2021 Eagle Post 57 Newsletter of the Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance (ESWA) - www.eaglesummitwilderness.org. **


Introduction:

"Every 30 seconds the U.S. loses a football field’s worth of natural area. The stakes are nothing less than life on Earth as we know it. Unless we act now to conserve open lands and protect wild places, we face a sixth mass extinction to our landscapes and wildlife that will imperil our way of life as Westerners."

- Statement of Senators Michael Bennet and Tom Udall, June 2020.


Scientists are urging us to conserve at least 30% of our planet’s land and oceans by 2030 to mitigate the climate crisis and slow species loss. Thankfully, there's a global effort afoot called "30x30" that is working towards achieving that goal. And on January 27, President Biden signed an Executive Order committing to protect 30% of U.S. land and oceans by 2030. Beau Kiklis, Conservation Colorado’s Public Lands Advocate, addresses how Conservation Colorado is working to make 30x30 a reality in Colorado.

In the aftermath of 2020, taking bold climate action, protecting lands, water, and wildlife, and advancing racial equity have never been more urgent. The COVID-19 pandemic, historic wildfires, and the recent increase in attention to violence against people of color, particularly Black Americans, have only compounded this urgency.


Thankfully, the 2020 election affirmed that Coloradans vote almost consistently to support public lands, climate, and communities at every level of government. In fact, recent polling found that 81 percent of Colorado voters said “protecting Colorado’s public lands” was important to their vote for the U.S. Senate race.


At Conservation Colorado, we are working to grow this movement and catalyze this momentum to protect Colorado’s climate, air, land, water, and communities. We do this successfully through grassroots organizing, advocacy at the State Capitol and in Washington, D.C., and in elections at the state and federal level to secure conservation majorities. This work ensures that the number of public lands and environmental supporters grows consistently from the grassroots to state and federal decision makers.


In 2020, Conservation Colorado launched a new vision to guide its advocacy on public lands and wildlife: to protect and conserve 30% of lands and waters by 2030.


Protecting and Conserving 30% of Lands and Waters by 2030

At Conservation Colorado, we have a goal to conserve and protect 30 percent of lands and waters by 2030. Why? Because we are losing our most valuable asset: nature.


Since 2001, Colorado has lost over a half-million acres of natural lands to development, driven primarily by an expansion of extractive industries and sprawling housing development. Globally, nature is in a state of collapse:

  • Almost a million species are at risk of extinction around the world;

  • Half of global rainforests are gone;

  • 68 percent of the world’s wildlife has been lost since 1970;

  • Three-quarters of the planet’s lands and two-thirds of its oceans have been significantly altered by human activities; and,

  • In North America alone, there are nearly three billion fewer birds than there were just 50 years ago.

Thankfully, there is an emerging, science-based goal that we should strive to conserve 30 percent of the lands, waters, and oceans of Earth by 2030 to address the climate crisis, slow the rate of extinction, and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. This is an ambitious goal, but is one that 74 percent of Coloradans support.


We must help to mobilize this national movement, and plan for how to achieve it here in Colorado. Doing so has the power to unite our state’s efforts to protect natural lands from development, advance racial justice, and safeguard our climate for future generations.


As we embark on this effort, we must acknowledge that, like many facets of our society, land preservation has racist and white supremacist roots and a history built upon displacing native people to “protect” places, whether for conservation or to extract valuable resources from them. At the same time, it is our stark reality that communities of color in Colorado are 20 percent more likely to experience nature deprivation than white communities. Resolving this inequity is often referred to as closing the “nature gap.” The 30x30 effort presents an opportunity to ensure that future efforts to conserve nature involve partnerships with communities and tribes who have tremendous knowledge and expertise on these issues, but have been excluded from policy and decision making in the past.


In short, we can meet this ambitious 30x30 goal and close the nature gap by scaling up existing conservation tools alongside new community-driven policies that protect and restore nature at the federal, state, and local levels.


Here are a few immediate opportunities to advance the 30x30 goal:


State-Level Action:

  • Nominating new State Parks through CPW’s new nomination process;

  • Implementing Governor Polis’s conservation executive orders on big game migration corridors and winter range and outdoor regional partnerships;

  • Committing Colorado to a 30x30 goal through a state resolution or executive action; and,

  • Completing oil and gas regulatory reforms initiated by Senate Bill 19-181.

Federal-Level Action:

  • Committing the United States to a national 30x30 goal, whether through a resolution or executive order;

  • Passing the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy Act;

  • Passing the Colorado Wilderness Act; and

  • Passing The Oil and Gas Bonding Reform and Orphaned Well Remediation Act and The Public Engagement Opportunity on Public Land Exploration (PEOPLE) Act.

To achieve this goal, we will need to organize our communities and build the groundswell in support of the 30x30 vision as a necessity to preserve nature, combat climate change, and make sure the beauty of Colorado that so many of us have been privileged to enjoy remains accessible to all now and for future generations.


You can learn more about Conservation Colorado at conservationco.org or visit our social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

ABOUT BEAU KIKLIS:

Beau Kiklis is Conservation Colorado’s Public Lands Advocate. He resides in Denver on the ancestral and unceded lands of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Ute, and many other indigenous peoples. Having moved to Durango in 2010 and spending several years exploring the surrounding desert and mountain landscapes and rivers, Beau maintains the southwest region of the state as his favorite place in Colorado. When he’s not working, he’s almost certainly on a ski tour or riding his mountain bike somewhere with his partner Kathryn and their dog Mollie.


** This article was originally published in the February 2021 Eagle Post 57 Newsletter of the Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance (ESWA) - www.eaglesummitwilderness.org. **

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