An Investment in the Outdoors and Innovation

"America's clean energy and high-tech revolution has gone West. Yes, the geography is conducive to new energy technologies -- a natural home to wind and solar. While it may surprise some, the geography also proves to be conducive to intellectual creativity and innovation."

So begins a recent op-ed I wrote with venture capitalist Theodore Roosevelt IV. You can read the full article here on RollCall.

In light of the burgeoning new high-tech communities in Boulder and other smaller western communities, Roosevelt and I took a closer look at what is luring entrepreneurs to the new "Silicon Mountains" of the West and what it takes to sustain this innovative culture.

Turns out, economists, CEOs and even governors agree that access to parks, public lands and outdoor recreation is a key. The outdoors provides a quality of life attractive to entrepreneurs in high-tech and other service sectors, and allows them to recruit and retain like-minded talent.

Protecting these outdoor assets requires the White House and Congress to support policies that balance energy development with conservation and recreation, including the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This 50-year-old program uses fees paid by companies drilling offshore to provide onshore recreation -- in national and local parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other areas.

As President Obama said this summer: "Our natural spaces are also laboratories for scientists, inventors and creators -- Americans who sustain a tradition of innovation that makes our country the most dynamic economy on earth." It is only common sense then, that our policymakers in Washington should keep the value of our public lands in mind when negotiating federal spending priorities.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is an opportunity for bipartisan leadership and an investment in American innovation.

For example -- one of our greatest challenges in the US is the Hoover Dam. A report from five years ago conducted by University of California-San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography "places Lake Mead's chances of running dry by 2021 at 50 percent."

While most might look at this as a threat -- which it is -- I see it as a chance to implement solutions to stave off this problem. These solutions are climate wealth opportunities to create businesses that deploy technologies to thwart the threat.

In saving the environment, there are creative solutions to build the economy.