Public land

JERRY MCBRIDE/Durango Herald file photo

Mike Gillings, of Denver, takes off for an afternoon hike in the Canyons of the Ancients at Sand Canyon trailhead northwest of Cortez. Beyond their archaeological, historic and environmental value, this area’s public lands are a major factor in attracting visitors to Southwest Colorado and with that, supporting our recreation-based economy.

I recently participated in a review of a new report’s release, “The Economic Benefits of Protected Public Lands,” by R Street Institute, a self-described, free-market think tank that supports limited, effective, government and responsible environmental stewardship. The report points to the economic benefits of balancing energy development with recreation on public land; it also examines several communities in the West where nearby protected lands, such as parks and monuments, are driving economic growth.

In my work and in my community, I have seen the power of the recreation economy first hand. Our company, Osprey, is proud of its efforts in conservation, land protection and stewardship as well as environmental responsibility. Our products make it possible for people to travel further and see more in the great outdoors, and we have been creating jobs in Colorado since 1990.

Here in Cortez, where our company is headquartered, our employees and community have benefited from the creation of a relatively new local trail system called Phil’s World. This fun and accessible, stacked-loop trail system is attracting visitors and events to Cortez like never before – not to mention what a joy it is to have such a great place to mountain bike right in our own backyard. Add to this the iconic Mesa Verde National Park and the nearby Weminuche Wilderness (the largest in the state), and it’s easy to discern the power of the recreational economy as related to the health of Montezuma County.

The jobs Osprey is creating in our rural community and the visitors and new residents who are being attracted to our area have not gone unnoticed by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez. Tipton has made it clear he understands and supports the link between economic development and protected public land.

He supported the community effort to conserve Chimney Rock National Monument, and he worked with U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., to introduce the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act. Tipton is now working hard to shepherd that proposal, which is supported by mountain bikers and snowmobilers, through a Congress that has taken few positive actions on public lands proposals.

I am encouraged by the balanced approach that seems to be emerging in regard to the economics of public land in the 21st century and commend Tipton and R Street Institute for their willingness to work toward solutions for public lands issues our communities want and need.

Gareth Martins is director of marketing at Osprey Packs, Inc., headquartered in Cortez. Reach him at

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