4 Reasons to be Thankful You Live in Colorado
By Mike DelliVeneri
It’s November in Colorado, which means our famous peaks will start to turn white, the bighorn sheep will clash and both people and wildlife alike will brace for winter. November also means it’s time to loosen our belts and prepare for turkey, stuffing, green beans and mashed potatoes. But before you do, we thought we’d remind you (in the true spirit of Thanksgiving) just some of the reasons why we should be thankful to live in the Centennial State.
Luckily for Coloradans, we have a generous serving of places to recreate. We’re blessed to have some of America’s best national parks; including Rocky Mountain, Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes and Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Colorado is also home to 42 state parks that have something for every outdoor lover. From the rugged backcountry experience at State Forest to world-class birdwatching opportunities close to the city at Barr Lake, Colorado’s state parks are second to none. Throw in national forests, state wildlife areas, state trust and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, and there’s more than enough places to explore in an entire lifetime. Add it all up and Colorado’s public lands span more than 23-million acres.
Perhaps just as famous as Colorado’s majestic landscapes are the animals that call them home. There are 960 diverse species of wildlife in Colorado, from the state bird the lark bunting, to the state animal the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. While it might be easy to assume Colorado’s wildlife has always flourished, that wasn’t always the case. Thanks to species and habitat conservation and wildlife reintroduction programs over the years, Colorado is one of the best places in the nation to enjoy wildlife. Hunters and anglers, birders and wildlife watchers alike can appreciate the lynx, shiras moose, cutthroat trout and elk that roam free. With an estimated 260,000 animals, the state’s elk herd is the largest in the world. Seeing a moose in the wild used to be a rare sight, but thanks to reintroduction efforts the population has boomed to over 2,500. Even lesser-known species like the black-footed ferret and the boreal toad are bouncing back thanks to conservation work.
In Colorado you’ll see rain, hail, sleet and snow, with temperatures ranging below zero to over 100 degrees. While our friends on the West Coast might think we’re shoveling snow for six months out of the year, Denver averages over 300 days of sunshine a year — more than San Diego or Miami Beach. That being said, Colorado is blessed to have four distinct beautiful seasons. When the leaves change, photographers come from across the globe to capture their beauty. Colorado’s ‘champagne powder’ snow has attracted skiers for generations. Spring brings roaring rivers and breathtaking wildflowers. In summer, the entire state becomes a playground for hikers, bikers, fishers and boaters. How many other states can say that?
Colorado natives will tell you, the state has changed a lot in the past few years. Colorado is now the second-fastest growing state in the nation. Sure, we all have our gripes about increased traffic both on the highways and in the backcountry. But few states attract so many people with an interest and common appreciation for the outdoors. Just about every other car has a roof rack carrying a bike, kayak, fly rod, skis, tent or some combination thereof. Don’t believe us? In 2014, wildlife and outdoor recreation accounted for $34.5 billion in total economic impact to the state. That’s a lot of moolah.
Not only do Coloradans spend their time and money on the outdoors, they also value giving back. Whether it’s funding conservation efforts through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, volunteering or supporting a conservation organization — Coloradan’s are serious about protecting wildlife and wild places. Colorado Parks and Wildlife relies on over 6,000 volunteers to get their hands dirty building trails, helping with fish spawning or teaching hunter education. There’s literally hundreds of local conservation groups that work to protect and better the Colorado outdoors for the next generation.
So while you break bread with friends and family this Thanksgiving, be grateful you live in such an amazing state surrounded by some pretty awesome people. While you’re at it, bring some leftovers and get some fresh air on Black Friday — enjoy free admission to Colorado’s state parks on November 25.
Mike DelliVeneri is a digital marketing specialist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.