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Commentary: BLM on right track with plan for South Park

By: David Leinweber Special to The Gazette
April 17, 2017 Updated: April 17, 2017 at 4:15 am
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It's no secret that South Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts who come from across the country to enjoy the area's fish and wildlife.

It's a spectacular natural space and supports a thriving hunting and fishing economy. In fact, hunting and fishing in Park County generate $17 million in annual revenue.

As owner of Angler's Covey, I've seen firsthand for 35 years how valuable South Park's unique assets are and am proud to have helped tens of thousands of Americans enjoy this important place. Our local economy is greatly enhanced by these fish, wildlife and natural resources.

That's why it's so important that we ensure this special place is protected. I want this community to continue to thrive and I want future generations to be able to enjoy and recreate in America's great outdoors.

We witnessed a step in the right direction recently when the Bureau of Land Management released its preliminary proposals for South Park's public lands - including a potential master leasing plan for oil and gas development in the area. A master leasing plan is a smart-from-the-start approach that balances energy development with our local economy, which depends on healthy lands and rivers.

BLM's proposal could help protect the waters and wildlife of South Park while also helping the outdoors industry by resolving potential legal conflicts before the leasing process begins.

Elected officials, sportsmen, ranchers, landowners and business owners such as myself support balanced planning for South Park and are working with BLM because we realize how crucial this area's resources are.

This is a locally driven process that involves diverse stakeholders trying to safeguard our vital resources - the South Park Basin is also a major supplier of drinking water for the Denver metro area and provides 2 million people with clean water.

Coloradans care about public lands and are concerned when they are in jeopardy. BLM has a responsibility to local businesses that help support South Park's recreation economy and to future generations.

Instead of selling America's public lands to the highest bidder, BLM is on the right track with the current plan for South Park and I hope officials continue to listen to local voices, ensuring the new plan is a win for all. After all, our landscapes contribute so much to our local economy and businesses, create jobs, and provide drinking water and wildlife resources to millions of Americans.

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Leinweber is owner of Angler's Covey and chairman of Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance

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