Interior: Communications broke down for grouse meet

The Interior Department blamed a “breakdown in communications” for an incident last week in which Interior Secretary Sally Jewell barred reporters from attending a public meeting in Craig.

Interior Department communications director Kate Kelly wrote to a newspaper and the Colorado Press Association that the department will “redouble our efforts” to work with local governments and respect press freedoms.

Kelly wrote the letter in response to a letter from the Colorado Press Association saying that Jewell violated the spirit of the First Amendment’s freedom of the press.

Jewell “attended what our office had understood to be a small meeting with community leaders,” Kelly wrote. “It appears there was a breakdown in communications with the (Moffat) County commissioners about the parameters of the meeting.”

A man believed to have been an Interior Department employee prevented reporters with The Craig Daily Press and radio station KRAI from covering the meeting, which the commission had noticed so that all three commissioners could attend.

About 50 people attended the meeting of residents, officials and energy industry and environmental organizations, in the American Legion hall.

The misunderstanding “was also unfortunate because it has distracted from the original purpose of the secretary’s visit: to highlight the work that is being done on the ground through private landowners at all levels of government on the critical sage-grouse efforts,” Kelly wrote.


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