A few weeks back, another Colorado newspaper featured an article on Colorado’s loss of natural landscapes. Analysis conducted nationwide found that we are losing landscape to development at the rate of two football fields per minute. The writer pointed out that that’s a faster rate than deforestation in the Amazon region of Brazil.
Losing landscape affects us in a number of ways. Trees and plants absorb and store carbon and help contain climate change. Housing and commercial development displace wildlife. Conserving natural landscapes provides habitat for the critters that make this state the place we choose to live.
The purpose of plans like PlanCOS or the 2014 CS Parks Master Plan is to peer into the future, anticipate growth patterns and set the stage for decisions that align with our values and priorities. It’s up to us to make sure those plans aren’t shelved but are the basis for good decision- making.
The TOPS tax passed in 1997 because people were concerned about losing natural landscapes. Imagine Colorado Springs without some of those landscapes we wisely purchased and preserved. Even as growth continues and developments are created, new opportunities to save our dwindling portfolio of valuable landscape will come our way.
I hear people say, “Why buy more if we can’t take care of what we have?” It’s a fair question. Between committed park staff and close to 20 Friends Groups across the region, we do a fairly good job of taking care of our larger parks and open spaces. With more maintenance money, we could do a better job. But that shouldn’t stop us from preserving natural landscapes as they become available. Especially now that we know just how rapidly they are disappearing.
Susan Davies is executive director of Trails and Open Space Coalition.
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