Opinion | Polis: Loving our lands for a lifetime
Rocky Mountain National Park welcomes almost 4.5 million visitors annually. Anyone who has been there, young and old, loves it. Nearly every Coloradan has a story about going there. You may have a memory of picnicking there as a child with your family — or camping and fishing with friends as a teenager — or even hiking with your baby in a carrier (Colorado parents know what a workout that is!). The Park is the majestic backdrop to our memories made fishing, camping, horseback riding, and hiking.
Once you’ve been there, you plan to go back – again and again and again. That is the case for all of our National Parks, National Forests, National Recreation Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and so many other public lands throughout the country. It only makes sense that there be a lifetime pass to get in to these treasured places.
It’s why with Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., I introduced the bipartisan Lifetime Access to Recreational Lands and Water bill. It creates a lifetime pass for all of us who frequent federal recreation lands and waters. All you have to do is purchase one pass, and get into the places you love forever. As I leave U.S. House of Representatives, I do so hoping this common-sense legislation gets through next Congress.
Not only is the pass convenient, but it provides a steady revenue stream for desperately needed maintenance, paid for by those who use the lands the most.
Parks, like Rocky Mountain National Park, are fee funded, and the lifetime pass would add to that pot. During a government shut down like the one we are in – it’s ever more apparent why parks need that steady stream of fee revenue.
As it stands, the lands we all share are in need of over $11 billion in unfunded deferred maintenance. The backlog means that trails are eroding and paved roads are crumbling away. Neglecting these projects threatens the places we go to make our memories, and it has a negative impact on local communities that rely on healthy public lands for jobs.
Truly loving our public lands means we have to take care of them. This new pass would allow us to get started on making critical structural repairs to our parks that will help ensure they remain in top-notch condition for generations to come.
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