Tipton hopeful about forest bill
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton on Saturday voiced fairly high hopes for getting his bill aimed at creating healthy forests and reducing wildfire threats through Congress.
“I’m reasonably confident that we are going to be able to get this through the House of Representatives and hopefully through the Senate as well,” Tipton said at Club 20’s spring meeting at Colorado Mesa University.
Tipton, R-Cortez, addressed natural resources, federal budget and other issues in an appearance at the meeting.
He said the forest measure empowers the state government and counties to determine imminent threats to forests in order to protect power lines, schools and watersheds.
Montrose resident Susan McGee told Tipton, “I just hope that you continue to work on the harvesting of some of that, not the locking away of some of that land, and keep our sawmills going in Montrose.”
Tipton said he agrees that there needs to be responsible logging of trees, and cited as an example a forest project in the Pagosa Springs area that thinned out underbrush and diseased growth and helped increase groundwater.
“So your point is well taken,” he told McGee.
Tipton also touted the passage in the House Natural Resources Committee of his bill streamlining the approval process for small hydroelectric projects by local water companies in canals and pipelines. The measure should go to the full House next month and a sponsor of a companion bill has been found in the Senate, he said. In Colorado alone, if taken full advantage of, the bill could result in as much electricity generation as that provided by Glen Canyon Dam, he said.
“It’s going to be able to create jobs as well,” he said.
Tipton also expressed concerns about what he called federal water grabs that could deeply impact the state of Colorado. He pointed to attempts by the U.S. Forest Service to require signing over of water rights by ski areas to the federal government.
“In Colorado we call that a taking,” he said.
A court has ruled the Forest Service needs to hold public hearings before it can proceed with the plans.
“We’re going to be working on a piece of legislation to make sure we codify our state water law and our private property rights to be able to protect that,” he said.
Club 20 Executive Director Bonnie Petersen praised Tipton’s recent tough questioning of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on the matter of ski area water.
“I appreciate you pushing back at him. He weaseled out of answering that question pretty significantly so we know that we’re going to be under attack” on the issue, she said.
Reacting to the U.S. Senate’s passage of a budget early Saturday, Tipton said, “Here’s the problem with the Senate budget. It doesn’t balance, ever. It never, ever balances.”
Tipton also said, “It is criminal the debt that we are piling up on our children and our grandchildren. It is generational theft and we do need to address this.”