Recognizing the importance of outdoor recreation

Keywords: Durango Herald,

Over the past two years, I have had the honor of representing the people of Colorado in the United States Senate. Looking back on the 114th Congress, I’m proud of the bipartisan work we were able to accomplish on behalf of Coloradans, and look forward to working with all my colleagues as we turn our focus to the work that lies ahead in 2017.

This past year, I worked with my colleagues from both parties to see my Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act signed into law. As a result, the federal government is now required to measure outdoor recreation’s impact on the economy.

This legislation is important to Colorado because it provides Washington with data that proves what residents of Southwest Colorado already know: Outdoor recreation plays a major role in Colorado’s economy and supports countless jobs throughout our state.

People from all over the world travel to the Centennial State to visit Mesa Verde National Park, ski on Colorado’s world-class mountains and participate in countless other outdoor activities. These outdoor activities account for a large part of the economic fabric of our local communities, and now as a result of my legislation, Washington decision-makers are armed with an incredibly powerful tool to gather information and provide a more complete picture of the outdoor industry’s true economic impact.

As a Durango Herald story (Dec. 1) explained, “Precise data about the outdoor recreation industry’s size and impact is hard to come by despite its presence as a multibillion dollar industry. ... This act, however, would break new ground by directing the secretary of commerce to coordinate with the departments of Agriculture and the Interior on submitting regular assessments to Congress.”

I was proud of this bipartisan, bicameral effort, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to find more solutions that pave the way for economic growth across the four corners of our state.

Another major focus of mine over the last year and a half has been working to hold the Environmental Protection Agency accountable for the Gold King Mine spill, which resulted in the release of 3 million gallons of contaminated water into the Animas River. Immediately after the spill, I traveled to the Southwest corner of the state to meet with local officials and sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy urging the agency to expediently respond to the disaster.

Back in Washington, I demanded answers from EPA officials at Senate hearings and pressed for the construction of a water treatment plant to be considered as one of EPA’s top priorities.

As the EPA continued to drag its feet on reimbursements for response costs assumed by states, Indian tribes and local governments, and failed to process a single claim related to personal injury or economic loss, I worked with my colleagues to introduce legislation that would force it to pay out all claims for damage relating to the spill.

Recently, the president signed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, which included a provision I authored that requires the EPA to reimburse states, tribes and local governments for response and cleanup costs associated with the Gold King Mine spill.

I will continue to work to ensure that Congress exercises its oversight role and see that the EPA adheres to the law.

Throughout the 114th Congress, the Republican majority has proved that it can put politics aside and deliver real results for the American people.

I look forward to getting to work this month, and I am committed to working with my colleagues to deliver more results for Coloradans and Americans across the country.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, represents Colorado in the U.S. Senate. Reach him through his website: www.gardner.senate.gov.