Governor-elect Jared Polis pledged Thursday to protect the state's public lands and to promote its booming outdoor recreation industry.
"I will very much take seriously my responsibility to be a faithful steward of our outdoor resources as well as an evangelist for growth of the outdoor tourism and recreation economy," Polis said at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Denver, a trade show of outdoor gear.
Polis, a Democrat and currently a U.S. representative, defeated Republican state Treasurer Walker Stapleton on Tuesday. Polis will succeed John Hickenlooper, a term-limited Democrat.
Polis said he won in part because of his promise to protect public lands.
"Coloradans truly understood that a vote for me was a vote for public land, was a vote for fun, was a vote for our heritage, and was a vote for the jobs that the outdoor industry sustains across our state," he said.
Polis said the industry provides 229,000 jobs and $2 billion a year in state and local taxes in Colorado. Nationwide, the industry says it generates $887 billion a year and is responsible for 7.6 million jobs.
Polis said President Donald Trump is often hostile to protecting public lands and vowed to stand up against what he called bad federal policy.
Utah is suffering because its leaders didn't resist Trump's public lands policy, Polis said, an apparent reference to the administration's decision to shrink Bears Ears National Monument there.
The outdoor retailers' summer and winter trade shows moved to Denver from Salt Lake City because of unhappiness with Utah leaders' position on public lands.
Polis did not discuss any specifics of his plans and left without taking questions. With Democrats headed toward control of both houses of the Legislature, he could have a clear path to enact environment-friendly policies and laws.
The outdoor retail show's move from Utah to Colorado was part of the industry's newfound political activism.
The Outdoor Industry Association, a trade group affiliated with the show, endorsed a slate of candidates for U.S. Senate, U.S. House and governor for the first time in this year's midterm elections, and the results were promising, said Alex Boian, the group's political director.
The association endorsed 23 candidates and 20 won, he said.
The group also made campaign contributions through its political action committee, but the amounts weren't immediately available.
Asked what impact the endorsements and contributions had, Boian said, "I think in many cases it was significant."
Fifteen of the candidates the group endorsed were Democrats and eight were Republicans.
Boian said the Trump administration's decision to shrink Bears Ears helped push the association into politics.
Outdoor retailers are also concerned about the escalating U.S. trade war with China, where much outdoor gear is manufactured — more than 90 percent in some categories, said Rich Harper, the association's manager for international trade.
Harper said tariffs the U.S. imposed on Chinese-made goods are relatively new and the outdoor industry is still compiling the cost, but he estimated it will be hundreds of millions of dollars.
Congress has shown no willingness to challenge the tariffs, so the industry does not expect much help from lawmakers, Harper said. A breakthrough is possible in U.S.-Chinese trade talks, but that could take time, he said.
"This could be a long trade dispute," Harper said.
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