One of the most important issues in the 3rd Congressional District race involves our public lands. The position of the Democratic candidate, Gail Schwartz, has been crystal clear: Public lands are collectively a treasure that is integral to the quality of life that we enjoy on the Western Slope. The position of the Republican candidate, Scott Tipton, is much less clear. He says he wants to preserve public lands, but he wants them locally managed. That warrants a closer look.
First, we have to look at why someone would want to change a management process that is working well as is. I have not dealt with the Bureau of Land Management, so I will limit my comments to the Forest Service, with which I have had the opportunity to work on a number of occasions. While I have not always agreed with every decision, I have found the USFS to be knowledgeable, conscientious and even-handed. Although its process is detailed and time consuming, it is designed to give all stakeholders a voice in the decision.
Second is the matter of cost. The USFS website tells us that it has budgeted roughly $6.5 billion (half of which is fire management) to manage 193 million acres nationwide. Colorado’s 14.5 million acres represents 7.5 percent of that total. Assuming proportionate distribution, 7.5 percent of the total budget is $487 million. The question we must ask ourselves is: Where is the state of Colorado going to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars? I can’t picture the proponents of this venture trying to push this level of tax increase through TABOR. The other two options are to sell off portions of the public lands or give the extraction industries carte blanche to plunder those resources at will. Neither of these options constitute protecting our public lands.
That is simply an illusionary solution in search of a problem. The second issue is a politician claiming to simultaneously support two mutually exclusive options. Double speak aside, Scott Tipton is no friend to public lands.