County rips Jewell for Denver lease event
The Mesa County Commission blistered Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Gov. John Hickenlooper and two Bureau of Land Management officials for their handling of a “media event” last week announcing the cancellation of mineral leases and closure of lands to drilling atop the Roan Plateau.
In separate letters to the four officials, the commission lambasted them for ignoring Mesa County, which has three of the canceled leases on the Thompson Divide and which serves as a hub for the energy industry in western Colorado.
“As we are all public servants, we understand that transparency is important to our constituents,” the commission wrote. “It is equally important to counties, especially as cooperating agencies and subdivisions of the state.”
Federal officials said the county officials had been kept aware of developments on both issues and that the event took place in Denver so Hickenlooper and Jewell could attend.
A spokesman for the governor declined to comment.
Commissioners from Garfield and Mesa counties happened to be in Denver when they learned of the event at the Capitol and attended, only to be told they could ask no questions, the letter said.
“It is insulting that only media was allowed to ask questions at the press conference and not commissioners from the affected counties, such as Mesa, who came a long distance to represent their constituents at that event,” the letter said.
Commissioner Rose Pugliese attended the event after learning about it from The Daily Sentinel and Pugliese wrote the letters in advance of the Monday meeting in which they were approved.
“It is insulting that you celebrated the taking of private property rights and the erosion of our fundamental freedoms as Americans as a victory for balance.”
The Roan Plateau settlement was reached two years ago, a spokesman for the Colorado office of the BLM said, noting that Mesa County “supported the Roan decision and was an important part of the settlement and recent planning decision.”
Likewise, the BLM had discussed Thompson Divide with Mesa County and other agencies 10 times over the past several years, spokesman Steven Hall said. “The decision announced Thursday is very similar to the decision discussed with Mesa County and other cooperating agencies earlier this year.”
The letters also went to BLM Director Neil Kornze and the agency’s state director, Ruth Welch.
Commissioner Scott McInnis likened the announcement in Denver to President Clinton announcing the designation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah from Arizona, while Commissioner John Justman harkened back to John Hancock and his signature on the Declaration of Independence.
“I say we sign our signatures big so the king and queen can see it,” Justman said.