Research Library


18 August 2016

THE NEXT COLORADO: Ensuring Access to Parks and Public Lands for Growing and Diverse Populations


Publishers: Hispanic Access Foundation
Author: Robert Fanger
Topics: Conservation, National Monuments/Parks/Refuges, Oil & Gas Development, Public Lands Protection
Geographic Focus: Colorado

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Colorado’s population is experiencing rapid growth, putting increased pressures on the state’s public lands, which are beloved by the vast majority of its residents, a significant driver in the state’s economy and a main draw for people moving to the state. Additional threats from development and a movement to sell off these lands to the highest bidder – closing them to the American public – are putting Colorado at risk of losing the wild.

A summary of findings include:

  • Population Growth: Since 1990, Colorado has added more than 2.1 million residents – a 65 percent population increase. By 2040, it is projected to have increased by 136 percent from 1990.
  • Shifting Demographics: Latinos make up approximately 19 percent of the state’s population – an increase of nearly 140 percent since 1990. By 2040, more than one-third of Colorado’s population will be Latino – an astounding growth of 525 percent from 1990.
  • Lack of Existing Protections: While population growth reaches new highs, only 10 percent of Colorado’s total land is currently under permanent protection jeopardizing long term accessibility of to natural areas as development expands outward.
  • Oil and Gas Development: Ongoing discussions and attempts to lease public lands for oil and gas development that would be detrimental to the quality and future of many treasured locations.
  • Anti-parks Movement: Continual attempts from the U.S. Congress seek to privatize federal lands, which would result in restricted access or loss of habitat, and to weaken or eliminate the Antiquities Act, a presidential tool responsible for the protection of many of Colorado’s treasured wild spaces and important cultural sites.

Opportunities for Colorado to ensure these lands remain intact for future generations exist:

  • Protecting New Areas: With only 10 percent of Colorado’s public lands permanently protected, there is significant opportunity to add to that portfolio. There are several current federal and local efforts underway.
  • Creating Safeguards: Master leasing plans provide a framework to ensure that areas under consideration for leasing meet criteria to reduce the environmental impact. Consistent adoption and use is needed.
  • Engaging Growing Communities: Embracing Colorado’s shifting demographics would engage new audiences such as Latinos and millennials in the state’s conservation efforts. There is a demonstrated concern from these communities, but their potential has been relatively untapped.

The protection of Colorado’s public lands is necessary for the quality of life and public health benefits that is helping drive the population boom. If these lands are not protected now, future generations will suffer a lack of access to our great outdoors.

Last modified on 03 April 2019

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