As member of the outdoor industry, we would like to voice our support for the Wild Lands Policy and creating new wilderness. At Osprey Packs, we have made backpacks and daypacks since 1974. Our headquarters has been located in Dolores since 1990, providing hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars of local economic stimulus over the years. Many of our customers enjoy and use natural landscapes such as wilderness and wild lands. The outdoor recreation industry is a major contributor to the U. S. economy $730 billion, 6.5 million jobs and $88 billion in state and national tax revenue. Our business depends on pristine, scenic public lands.
The Wild Lands Policy brings a balanced approach to public land management by putting protection of open spaces and recreation areas on par with development of resources such as natural gas. These days, it seems we have forgotten the importance of balance.
The natural gas industry has succeeded in creating a good environment for their business. In the intermountain west they control 42 percent of our public Bureau of Land Management Lands (BLM). The majority of those leases have not been developed thats 29 million acres of leased lands that have not been developed. And they have a surplus of drilling permits too. Add in private land and public national forests, and their holdings grow exponentially.
Our business depends on wide-open undeveloped areas such as wilderness and wild lands. In the intermountain West, we have only protected 1 percent of public BLM lands as wilderness. In Colorado, the BLM manages 8.3 million acres of taxpayer-owned lands, of which 205,888 are designated wilderness, about 2 percent.
Given the fact that only Congress can designate new wilderness areas, we need the Wild Lands Policy so that Congress has the opportunity to enact reasonable wilderness legislation. Without the policy, public lands cannot be inventoried and managed for various uses not restricting or eliminating industrial development but also including protections for recreation, wildlife habitat, clean water and spiritual renewal.
The Wild Lands Policy is the fulfillment of federal law. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act is the legal basis for the policy which provides the BLM ample authority to preserve and protect certain public lands in their natural condition and to inventory and manage those places worthy of protection so it can report accurately to Congress on which lands should receive congressional wilderness designations.
Congressional opponents to this policy are using a budget rider to defund the policy. It is important to note the administrations 2011 budget has no funds dedicated to the Wild Lands Policy. How can there be a policy that does not have any funds associated with it? The policy is implemented through the normal public lands planning process. The planning process allows our public lands managers to determine the best way to manage landscapes for multiple use. Some get slated for development and, with the wild lands policy, some will be preserved. The process by which lands will follow under the wild lands policy is public, open, and fair.
Some worry that the Wild Lands Policy will stop industry. The majority of BLM public lands (over 80 percent) no longer qualify for wilderness designation and can not fall under the Wild Lands Policy. So less than 20 percent of our public BLM lands even qualify for wilderness.
Please join me in supporting a diverse economy (industry and outdoor recreation) and multiple-use (development, recreation AND preservation), through a balanced approach to land management that requires the Wild Land Policy and more congressionally designated wilderness.
Gareth Martins is director of marketing for Osprey Packs. Kurt Kunkle is wilderness coordinator for the Colorado Environmental Coalition.