Our public lands are our treasures; let’s work to keep them that way.
June 6, National Trails Day, was an ideal time to grab your pack and head to your favorite spot in nature. It is fitting that this day falls toward the beginning of Great Outdoors Month, which is observed every June and celebrates wide-open spaces from coast to coast. The proclamation aptly states:
During Great Outdoors Month, Governors, communities, business leaders, and organizations will host thousands of events across the country to celebrate our unparalleled outdoors. … As we enjoy these magnificent places, let us rededicate ourselves to doing our part to preserve them for all our future explorers, adventurers, and environmental stewards.
Helping Americans get into those areas are roughly 200,000 miles of trails. They can be accessed in the forests of Tennessee, the wild coasts of California, the mountains of Idaho, and in thousands of other places across the nation. And they are enjoyed by people of all ages and walks of life.
Ptarmigan Peak hike in Colorado.
Many of our country’s trails are on protected public lands, which were safeguarded by policymakers who recognized the need to shield special places from development. In the latest such effort, on May 21, Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act, which would preserve 58,419 acres of public land in Colorado’s Central Rocky Mountains.
The bill would expand the Ptarmigan Peak, Holy Cross, and Eagles Nest wilderness areas and establish three new wilderness areas: Hoosier Ridge, Tenmile, and Williams Fork. The trails within these pristine stretches are prized by hikers, hunters, anglers, skiers, and others who want a quieter experience in nature.
The legislation also establishes the Tenmile Recreation Management Area, which would conserve important lands and trails for mountain biking and other recreational uses. The International Mountain Bicycling Association praised the bill as protecting “both the ecological resources of the land and the dependent local recreation economies.”
Over the past several years, numerous stakeholders have come together to safeguard this area of Colorado’s continental divide, from small business owners and local officials to sportsmen, conservationists, and veterans.
Outdoor recreation is an economic juggernaut in the state, generating $13.2 billion in consumer spending and supporting 125,000 jobs every year, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.
Nationwide, outdoor recreation accounts for a $646 billion chunk of the economy and directly employs 6.1 million people.
So whether it is the Central Rocky Mountains in Colorado, the highlands in West Virginia, or the basins and ranges of Nevada, our nation’s trails connect us to the places we love, enabling us to experience this country’s wildest treasures. For some of us it is hiking deep into the wilderness to fish a river, ski a pitch, or simply admire the grandeur and serenity of nature. Others prefer zipping down a mountain bike route or scaling a soaring peak. Whatever and wherever it is, a trail will take you there—all the more reason to celebrate National Trails Day.
And the best way to do that is get out there. See you on the trail.