We here in Montezuma County live in a truly amazing place. From the crown jewels of our region, Mesa Verde National Park and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, to the world-class trail system at Phil’s World, our community is truly fortunate to have so many great opportunities for outdoor recreation on our local public lands.
It is precisely because of these opportunities and the wild and natural beauty of our area that Osprey chose to locate our headquarters here. We value our public lands and everything they have to offer and take seriously the responsibility to steward these lands with a balanced approach for future generations.
The economies in the West have long been defined by the boom and bust cycle of oil and gas. Entire regions have been prisoner to the rise and fall energy prices. Thankfully, times have changed as our economy has diversified. Tourism and outdoor recreation have brought income, jobs, and more stability to our community. In Colorado alone, outdoor recreation generates $13.2 billion in consumer spending and $4.2 billion in wages and salaries. Here in Montezuma County, Osprey provides more than 75 jobs that wouldn’t exist without public access to our public lands. Mesa Verde National Park, as another example, generates $50 million in direct spending for our region. These numbers are not only a significant boon to our towns, but are relatively immune to the insane rollercoaster ride of the oil and gas boom and bust cycle, the damaging impacts of which we are, unfortunately, witnessing again in our community and beyond.
That is why we at Osprey support the creation of a Master Leasing Plan for America’s public lands in Montezuma and La Plata counties. This approach will provide citizens and businesses like mine a voice in developing a road map to decide where and how oil and gas development will take place. Most importantly, diverse stakeholders will be able to work together to create a win-win plan for all parts of our local economy. The Southwest Colorado Master Leasing Plan will provide a bottom-up approach that involves meaningful community input in how our shared public lands are managed in our backyard.
Through the Tres Rios BLM office’s current management plan, more than 90 percent of our regional BLM lands are open to oil and gas development. In fact, the current plan does not address controversial leasing proposals on lands within view of Mesa Verde National Park, or that could disrupt the experience at Phil’s World. Without a Master Leasing Plan, these places could be irreparably damaged.
The process is already underway. At the first round of public meetings on the MLP, held in Durango and Mancos on Feb. 11, members of our community spoke overwhelmingly in favor of a master leasing plan for our region. We will all have another opportunity to join our neighbors in telling the BLM to prepare the master leasing plan for public lands that are so important to our communities. The next public meetings are on Wednesday, March 16, at 10 a.m. at the Montezuma County Annex Building in Cortez, and at 6 p.m. at Fort Lewis Mesa Elementary in Hesperus.
As one of the most prominent employers in Montezuma County, Osprey cares about the community we live in, and we welcome the opportunity to share and discuss our values and concerns. Now that we have a venue for collaboration, let’s come together and work on balanced solutions for Southwest Colorado.
Diane Wren and her husband, Mike Pfotenhauer, are the founders and owners of Osprey Packs, based in Cortez.