Over 35% of Colorado’s land area is public land, and public lands make up 50% of Routt County. Throughout Colorado, the contributions these public lands make to our state’s economy are enormous — $28 billion in consumer spending on outdoor recreation, 229,000 jobs in outdoor recreation and more than 13 million visitors to Colorado state parks each year.

In recognition of U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt’s visit to Steamboat Springs this week, Yampa Valley Sustainability Council is highlighting the important role that public lands also play in helping ecosystems, wildlife and humans adapt to and mitigate climate change:

• Wilderness and protected lands are critical to conserve biodiversity, providing safe havens for plants and animals, including many endangered species, to reproduce despite changing conditions.

• Public lands provide important ecosystem services — think clean air and water. Intact ecosystems also offer a natural buffer to protect communities against disasters like the storms and floods.

• Networks of public lands and freshwater habitats allow plants and animals to shift ranges and thrive in an unpredictable and changing climate.

• Forests, wetlands and grasslands provide a sink for greenhouse gas emissions, capturing and storing carbon.

• Conserved public lands provide unique opportunities to research and better understand the impacts of climate change.

• The beauty and solace of wilderness areas inspire people to protect public lands and take action on climate change.

If you are inspired by your public lands, I hope you’ll join us at the Stand for Our Land rally at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 23 at the historic Routt County Courthouse. Let’s join together to show government officials, like Secretary Bernhardt, that our public lands are not for sale. Let’s make it clear that here in the Yampa Valley we value public lands and the wildlife, recreation and way of life they support.

Bring your clever signs and your family and friends, and let’s take a stand.

Sarah Jones

Yampa Valley Sustainability Council executive director