Nearly 100 outdoor companies have joined an environmental advocacy organization to protest Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner’s support of oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Conservation Communications commissioned advertisements urging constituents to share their outrage with the Republican lawmaker for supporting opening the refuge to development, described as one of the most anti-environmental actions Congress has ever taken.
In bold letters, one of the full-page advertisements says, “Senator Gardner voted to destroy America’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. What’s next? Rocky Mountain National Park? Mesa Verde National Park? Colorado Businesses won’t forget.”
As part of Congress passing the tax bill in December, it approved a provision that requires the federal government to hold at least two oil and gas lease sales in a 1.5 million-acre section called the 1002 area of the 19 million-acre refuge.
The vote follows 30 years of bi-partisan support to protect the refuge. And it comes on the heels of attacks on the Antiquities Act and national monuments, such as slashes to Bears Ears to Grand Staircase-Escalante.
Anna Peterson, founder of Conservation Communications, said that the Outdoor Retailer show this week moved from Utah to Colorado because of the state’s appreciation of public lands.
But Gardner’s vote on Nov. 15 was directly in conflict with that and came despite his constituents urging him to protect the U.S.’s largest wildlife refuge.
“We hope our congressional delegation hears our business voices and listens to us,” Peterson said. “The outdoor recreation economy is a huge economic driver in our state and nationally. We, and our customers, care about protected public lands as they are vital to keeping our industry going. We, as an industry more than most others, should value the heritage of our country's public lands nationwide - they are the lands where we and our customers recreate, rejuvenate, and remember what truly makes America great.”
Gardner did not respond to a request for comment on Monday, though in a statement in November, he said: “It is important to me that future generations are able to experience the same natural beauty that all Coloradans know so well. As a Member of the United States Senate, I take seriously my duty to ensure our incredible environment is there for the next generation to enjoy.”
Colorado businesses leading the outdoor industry are not convinced.
Jay Getzel, president of Mountainsmith in Golden, said businesses are rallying as an industry to speak up for public lands, and work toward better climate protections and renewable energy resources.
“Climate and public lands protections go hand in hand as many of the public lands conversations, and especially that regarding the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, are directed at protecting these wild places from fossil fuel extraction,” Getzel said. “It’s important that we communicate this to our representatives and ensure they are casting votes that align with the goals of the outdoor recreation industry.”
Rodney Smith, president of Backpacker’s Pantry based in Boulder, said that the vote goes against world leaders recognizing the importance of wild land and animals as important to the overall health of people and the environment.
“This amazing system of parks, refuges, national forests and BLM lands has enriched the lives of all Americans and been an economic boom for this Nation,” Smith said. “I may never see the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge myself, but I am willing to stand up for the right of future generations to have access to these pristine wild lands.”