KEEP THEM PUBLIC: South Park provides national model for public-lands

Recreating, fishing, and hunting on these public lands is an important part of our heritage. Just as important, the outdoor industry in Park County generates almost $18 million from hunting and fishing alone and produces many of the jobs in our community

As the Park County administrator, I have had the privilege of witnessing the opening of the Spinney Mountain Reservoir for fishing several times. As in years past, when Spinney Mountain opened on April 1, sportsmen and women, boaters, and outdoor enthusiasts traveled from across Colorado to experience the natural beauty and bounty this area’s pristine public lands offer. Nearby Eleven Mile Reservoir offers camping and expansive shore fishing opportunities as well as boating and five miles of hiking trails.

Recreating, fishing, and hunting on these public lands is an important part of our heritage. Just as important, the outdoor industry in Park County generates almost $18 million from hunting and fishing alone and produces many of the jobs in our community. Park County’s outdoors and natural resources are crucial to our communities and small businesses, yet their fate hangs in the balance.

The future of oil and gas development has been in the news recently with the Trump administration preparing to remove what they see as impediments to energy development on our public lands. We hope they take a look at what we are doing in South Park as an example for the rest of the state and the nation. Currently, the Bureau of Land Management is planning for the future of the South Park area, including future oil and gas development, with the full involvement of Park County and input from the public. Park County believes the best economy is a diversified economy and that energy development need not come at the cost of the world-class fishing and the booming outdoor recreation industry that is essential to Coloradans.

That’s why Park County supports the efforts by the Colorado BLM to issue a master leasing plan — basically, a landscape-level plan for our public lands that strives to conserve our natural heritage and ensure energy development takes place responsibly and in the right places. The process incorporates feedback from a diverse group of local stakeholders to address potential conflicts and find solutions early in the process, all the while taking steps to safeguard our special lands and resources. The BLM is taking public comments on preliminary, draft management proposals that include South Park until May 5.

Spinney Mountain State Park is a sportsman’s paradise. Attracting anglers from all across the state and region, the state park boasts a Gold Medal fishery and is now open for shore fisherman and boats. As a Park County official, I want to make sure we take reasonable steps to safeguard our priceless resources. Our community would be unrecognizable if it weren’t a destination for anglers and boaters. Spinney Mountain State Park serves as both an outdoor playground and area job creator.

In Park County, there is much support for smart-from-the start planning by a wide variety of stakeholders who agree it is the best way forward for our communities. Front Range and mountain communities see the value of using a balanced approach to energy development. Small business owners and their employees benefit from the knowledge that energy development will not come at the cost of the outdoor recreation industry.

Folks have often rightly criticized the BLM for not listening nor involving local communities in land management decisions. In our corner of the state the BLM has heard those concerns loud and clear. They continue to move forward with a transparent and inclusive process that truly is a model for land-use planning. Our public lands are an irreplaceable treasure. In Colorado, we strive to put political differences aside as we develop plans for the future that protect our Gold Medal fisheries and provide a path forward for responsible energy development. We have invited Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke as well as Colorado’s elected leadership to come visit our slice of paradise, to and fish and learn what we have been able to achieve through collaboration and cooperation.

  Tom Eisenman is the county administrator for Park County, which includes South Park.