Conservation a hard thing to define for some people

Grasping what someone means when they utter word “conservation” is as tasking (and slippery) as squeezing a watermelon seed.

Does it mean protecting existing resources, be they wildlife, energy, drinkable water, open space or clean air?

Does it mean preserving those same resources, without subtracting from present supplies?

Or maybe it means wisely using those same finite resources so as to extend their life until other (re)sources can be developed?

Sigh. It’s a herculean task, made none the easier by the brinksmanship, disrespect and genuine arrogance often shown by representatives from all sides of the equation.

So enter the fray the Mesa County Conservation Forum, a small cadre of concerned citizens seeking some way to drop the baggage and get on with the question.

The forum, which in its compact circle includes sportsmen, recovering politicians, businesspeople and wildlife and energy advocates among other interests, also struggles with defining conservation.

That much, at least, was evident from the forum’s initial public meeting last week at the Grand Junction city auditorium.

It certainly wasn’t from a gallant lack of trying or from having arm’s too short to exceed their grasp.

But at the end, after as many of the four dozen came in from the cold on a night when shopping, not conserving, was foremost on many minds and crowded around the forum’s panel of speakers, there weren’t many answers to be found.

What came to mind to this observer was the trenchant though imprecise comment from former Supreme Court Justice Stewart Potter, who, when speaking on another matter entirely, noted, “I know it when I see it.”

And while the evening didn’t result in any great decisions, that’s OK, because it wasn’t meant to.

As Tom Burke, chairman of the forum and one who wears the mantle of most of the above affiliations, said at the end, with some obvious relief, “At least it was a beginning.”

The initial gathering, of which at least three more are planned for the year, featured a panel consisting of Rick Cables, the new chief of Colorado Parks and Wildlife; Linda Dannenberger, head of the Mesa County Planning Department; Tom Kenyon, mayor of Grand Junction and former deputy director of Colorado State Parks; and Jim Cagney, Northwest District Manager for the Bureau of Land Management.

All of the presentations were informative and interesting if not riveting, but also increasingly resembled somewhat the desperate final scenes from old wagon train movies — circle the wagons and hope for divine intervention.

It wasn’t for lack of energy or material, but how do you talk about conservation when you don’t know what it is?

Burke and other readily admitted as much.

“We didn’t expect to arrive at any decisions because we don’t have a pre-determined outcome,” Burke said. “We wanted to get the dialogue going and we want people to see us a credible organization trying to address these topics from a pragmatic approach in a way to help everyone make smart decisions.”

Perhaps, in such a situation, it’s not a bad idea initially to heft the same gospel of optimism as Tim Tebow demonstrates on third and long.

After all, the elusive query of “what is conservation” may prove the easiest question to answer.

It’s all that other stuff, and the cumbersome impedimenta dragging ineluctably behind, that often bogs reaching a decision.


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The biggest disappointment at this forum was the way that questions from the floor, which were solicited as people entered the room, were ignored. People took the time to write their questions, a stack showed up at the podium, two were actually presented to the panel, the rest hit the circular file.

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