Colorado Businesses ‘Furious’ Senator Votes to Open Arctic Refuge to Drilling

“The Outdoor Retailer show is moving to Colorado mostly because of our state leaders’ appreciation for, and protection of, America’s public lands,” said Sarah Tingey, Director of Operations & Outreach for Alpacka Raft in Mancos, one of more than 160 Colorado companies that are asking Senator Cory Gardner to not open the Arctic Refuge to fossil fuel development. “Senator Gardner has failed our nation today by voting to open America’s irreplaceable Arctic Refuge to drilling. Once the Refuge is drilled, the landscape will be changed for generations,”

This statement came the day after Colorado Senator Gardner voted in his role on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as part of a tax bill moving toward a full Senate vote. And it also comes a few months before the first OR show in Colorado, a state chosen for its presumed protection of public lands. Protection of the Refuge has been supported by Democrats and Republicans since 1980, and the most recent inclusion of drilling into the federal budget process is the most aggressive attempt to open the Refuge in decades, said the group of businesses.

Nearly 200 Colorado businesses across the state from outdoor gear companies to breweries, wineries, and distilleries are angered that Colorado Senator Gardner voted to pave the way for opening America’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to fossil fuel drilling. These hundreds of Colorado businesses, as well as faith leaders, veterans, and sportsmen have spoken with, written, and asked Senator Gardner to protect America’s largest wildlife refuge many times over the past few months.

No word as of yet from the organizers of Outdoor Retailer or show sponsors the Outdoor Industry Association if they will attempt to leverage their clout in Colorado the way they did in Utah by threatening to move the show.

“Senator Gardner keeps telling us he’s a public lands supporter, but you can’t support public lands and then vote to open America’s largest and wildest Refuge to fossil fuel development. Adding Arctic Refuge drilling to the budget process is sneaky and callous. It’s a way to line the pockets of the fossil fuel industry by going around regular law-making procedures. Senator Gardner should be ashamed of himself, and he won’t last as a Colorado Senator with this stance.” said Auden Schendler Senior Vice President of Sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company and signer of an outdoor industry business letter addressed to Senator Gardner asking him to protect the Arctic Refuge.

In a letter sent last week to constituents, Senator Gardner said that “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.”

Corey Odell, with Odell Brewing Company, and signer of the brewery, winery, and distillery letter, said, “Protecting America’s public lands isn’t a partisan issue, it’s just the right thing to do. This effort to open the Arctic Refuge to oil and gas development is short sighted and poorly reasoned. The Arctic Refuge drilling authorization is being shoved through in a tax bill. We will not forget that Senator Gardner has broken our trust by voting for such a significant public lands policy.”