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Haaland and Biden can protect our lands themselves

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland is touring Colorado this weekend to promote our public lands, celebrate needed additions to our recreational economy, promote water conservation and explore the possibility of moving the Bureau of Land Management out of Colorado and back to Washington D.C.

We especially appreciate her work to bring federal resources to help protect the Colorado River from the extreme drought that is sucking it dry.

But we are also waiting for a specific plan for how the Department of the Interior is going to meet President Joe Biden’s goal of setting aside 30% of America’s lands for conservation by 2030.

Nine years is not long to achieve such a lofty goal. Consider that it took President Barack Obama eight years of analysis to conserve Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears using the Antiquities Act, and it only took President Donald Trump a few months to scale back the sizes of the new national monuments.

Biden must be more aggressive than both of his immediate predecessors to conserve land for the next generation. Up and down the food chain, our diverse flora and fauna require vast habitats and connected migration corridors to thrive. We are falling short of providing wilderness lands that are kept pristine as sources of water, habitats and natural carbon sinks.

Humans meanwhile are maxing out our public lands, loving them to death.

Biden and Haaland must set aside vast tracks of land as wilderness with Congress’ help or Biden must take action himself by using the Antiquities Act to preserve our most crucial lands. Simultaneously he must increase recreational access to other lands by funding the projects needed for a variety of recreational opportunities: new trials for four wheelers, equestrian paths, national parks, campsites, backpacking thoroughfares, and hiking trails. Opening up more land for recreation is the only way to alleviate the pressure on existing resources like Rocky Mountain National Park, Maroon Bells and Hanging Lake.

For the first time in a long time, the resources to achieve these goals are here – Trump with the help of U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner fully funded the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

And there is low hanging fruit in Colorado. If the U.S. Senate is unable to pass the CORE Act and the Colorado Wilderness Act, which combined would preserve hundreds of thousands of acres for the next generation, then Biden should consider using the Antiquities Act to put those carefully selected and targeted lands into the National Monument system.

The Antiquities Act has been used to great effect in Colorado.

No one would question the decision in 1911 to forever conserve the Colorado National Monument. And both the Great Sand Dunes and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison began as national monuments before becoming national parks.

Biden has set an important goal, and there is room in Colorado for him to make great gains towards achieving his vision.

Members of The Denver Post’s editorial board are Megan Schrader, editor of the editorial pages; Lee Ann Colacioppo, editor; Justin Mock, CFO; Bill Reynolds, general manager/ senior vp circulation and production; Bob Kinney, vice president of information technology; and TJ Hutchinson, systems editor.

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