Outdoor recreation is why many of us call southern Colorado home. Contemplative open space trails, swooping singletrack, rugged forested hikes, and the hidden canyons of the prairie are available to us in our backyard.
But there is a growing tension with our public lands. In the face of youth growing up disconnected from nature and more people living in urban areas, there is a push to get more people outside and enjoying the land. On the other hand, outdoor recreation in Colorado is at an all-time high. Land and management concerns continue to increase in the face of more people and recreation pressure. Colorado’s famous Fourteeners are an excellent example of a sensitive landscape at risk of being “loved to death.” The damage caused by too many people in the alpine is well-documented and includes loss of vegetation, increased erosion, and pollution of headwaters, among others.
A recent article in Outside Magazine, written by Christopher Solomon, talks about the fracturing between should-be allies — recreationists and conservationists. He offers a new golden rule for outdoor recreation - Place First - suggesting the needs of the land be placed before one’s personal recreation interests. This is an ethic many already observe, including staying on designated trails, observing wildlife closures, avoiding trail use when muddy, not rock climbing on sandstone after rainstorms, and the over-arching rule of “leave no trace.”
Nonetheless, humans are inextricably part of the landscape. Palmer Land Trust works with both public and private landowners to conserve a variety of lands with a goal of improving the quality of life for our community. From working lands that provide food, to the urban areas we call home, to parks and open spaces that provide us enjoyment, the land and our interaction with it is the foundation of our lives. “Place first,” or in the case of Palmer, “land first,” is the foundation of our mission. We must respect the land because it is integral to our identity. With our public and private landowner partners, we work to maintain the resiliency, productivity, and health of the land. We need the land; and as much as it may sometimes seem otherwise, the land needs us to safeguard and steward it so it retains its beauty, wildness and abundancy for future generations.