Printed letters, April 15, 2010

State Roadless Rule remains too weak

As a Colorado sportsman and former member of the Colorado Roadless Task Force, I can say with sadness but confidence that the proposed Colorado Roadless Rule, as recently submitted to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and praised by that office, continues to fall markedly short of adequately conserving our state’s more than 4 million acres of non-wilderness yet unspoiled backcountry.

While Gov. Bill Ritter’s recommendations include some needed improvements, this “final” proposal contains the same fundamental flaws as past drafts of this tenaciously wrong-headed rule.

Among the proposed state rule’s most egregious problems is the basic lack of commitment by the state to maintain and improve roadless area characteristics — clean water, natural landscapes and high-quality fish and wildlife habitat. This omission, over time, predictably will seriously degrade the Colorado backcountry hunting and fishing experience.

The proposed Colorado rule would also allow aggressive logging operations in the backcountry in the name of disease and insect suppression. Additional loopholes would allow construction of power-line corridors and water projects in remote roadless areas, eliminating the opportunities for solitude and eroding or destroying the prime fish and wildlife habitat these places currently provide. These types of development show little regard for Colorado’s outdoor heritage.

Citizens who care about our public lands and the outdoor traditions they foster should urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support only those management rules for Colorado’s roadless areas that meet or exceed the standards set by the 2001 federal roadless rule. Anything less is a shameless selling-out of Colorado’s share of America’s long-term national pride and sanity for short-term economic gain.



Congratulations due to local Census folks

Gary Harmon’s timely April 6 report, “County leads state, U.S. in census response,” affords an appropriate opportunity to give credit where credit is due (even if a bit premature).

First, congratulations are in order to Partnership Specialist Brian Meinhart, who, along with his stimulus-funded partnership assistants (including former Grand Junction Mayor Cindy Enos-Martinez) — has been diligently preparing the ground for a successful Census 2010 on the Western Slope since January 2009.

Second, kudos are in order for the combined Mesa County-Grand Junction “Complete Count Committee,” which — like similar committees in Montrose, Craig, and elsewhere — actively contributed to positive media relations and apparent operational success. Kudos also to the local elected officials, including Grand Junction Mayor Bruce Hill, Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis, and Craig City Councilman Ray Beck, who supported them.

Third, credit must be given to the Grand Junction local Census office, whose managers — despite inopportune leadership changes — have thus far successfully overcome every obstacle (including persistent computer difficulties and adverse weather ditions).

Meanwhile, the Census Bureau has reported to Sen. Michael Bennet’s office that the software problems that prevented the hiring of at least 300 Grand Junction residents in February — and resulted in the aforementioned management changes — have since been corrected.

Even if true, that news offers little consolation to those who were not hired (or to those of us who were fired)!

Nationally, the real test is “Non-Response Follow-Up” beginning May 1, wherein Census workers will be contacting the 37-plus percent of our fellow-citizens who have not yet returned their Census questionnaires by then.

Hopefully, with so much federal funding to local governments dependent on complete and accurate population data, Mesa County and the entire Western Slope will continue to lead the nation in response rate.



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