U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Silt, spoke at the Club 20 Fall Conference Saturday morning, with her topics including her forestry legislation, efforts to keep the Bureau of Land Management headquarters in Grand Junction and her evaluation of the Biden Administration’s military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Boebert began her 30-minute session at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Grand Junction by criticizing the manner in which the United States left Afghanistan after the longest war in the nation’s history. All service members have been evacuated, but some American citizens remain in the country, and 13 service members were killed in a blast near the airport in Kabul in August.

Boebert said she and her staff have been in contact with the U.S. Department of State every day, but that the State Department is “the No. 1 hindrance in getting these people back home.”

“Yesterday, every time I felt like we were getting to this peak of hope where American planes can leave and come home, I would be transferred to someone else at the State Department or they’d say, ‘Yeah, we’re aware of this. Yes, we know, we’ll get back to you,’ ” Boebert said. “It’s really frustrating that, still, after all this time, after we’ve lost 13 service members and so many Americans have been left behind, our State Department is still the No. 1 hindrance in getting these people back home.”

Boebert also addressed criticism she received after she and 15 other congressional Republicans voted against a bill to grant visas to 8,000 Afghans who supported the United States’ war efforts, including interpreters and contractors. The resolution, which passed by a 407-16 margin in the House of Representatives, allows those U.S. allies to relocate under the Special Immigrant Visa program.

The first-term representative defended her vote and claimed that the resolution hasn’t been as effective as intended.

“It’s really difficult to vote for something when it bypasses committees, when we’re elected and placed on committees to have discussions about legislation, to offer amendments, to have mark-ups and debate what’s going on,” Boebert said. “When they just bypass that process completely and go to the floor for a vote without any offer of amendments to make it better, it’s really difficult to say, ‘Yes, I support this,’ without that bill being vetted, debated, discussed, and now, I’m looking at legitimate SIV holders, our allies in Afghanistan, and they’re being denied a trip here to come be with us.

“What was the point of all of the criticism if we’re not going to allow them into America when they need it the most?”

WESTERN WILDFIRES

Boebert then moved on to the Active Forest Management, Wildfire Prevention and Community Protection Act that she introduced in early July. The forest management bill calls for the removal of more timber than the current pace by forest services, a fund to remove bark beetles from susceptible areas of woods and less burden on taxpayers.

She joked that bark beetles should be considered an endangered species so that state officials would take their removal more seriously, arguing that they’re being killed by the forest fires she believes they’re helping create when they burrow into drought-stricken trees.

“Every part of this district, especially, is impacted by our unhealthy forests and decades of poor forest management and bad policies that have put us in this situation,” Boebert said. “We have more than 6 billion standing dead trees in the west, and that’s creating a giant tinderbox. I know there are some people in this room who say that climate change is their No. 1 issue. I implore you, if that is your No. 1 issue, then allow us to manage our forests.

“The carbon emissions that are being released in a forest fire is far more impactful than all of the cars running every single day, all day and night, in Colorado for a year. Carbon emissions that are released are worse than anything that we are doing.”

Boebert said that much of Colorado’s weakened timber is reaching an “expiration date” and should be chopped down for lumber before they begin to crack.

In August, Boebert visited the Morgan Creek Fire in Routt County and visited the sites of previous forest fires such as the Pine Gulch Fire in De Beque and the Lake Christine Fire in Basalt. She praised Basalt officials for performing a prescribed burn in the area, which she says lessened the Lake Christine Fire’s strength. She visited the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting in Rifle.

She also singled out the Biomass Plant in Gypsum as a “tremendous” example of using timber to provide energy in the Centennial State.

“Right now, we’re harvesting about six billion feet of timber each year. My bill would require 10 billion feet to be harvested each year,” Boebert said. “I’ve met with timber producers and management advocates and I even brought the ranking member of the Natural Resource Committee, Bruce Westerman, out here to experience our forests first-hand, to go to a sawmill and experience the benefits of managing this forest.”

BUDGET BATTLES AND THE BLM HEADQUARTERS

Boebert then criticized the Biden Administration’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which was passed by the Senate on Tuesday and will provide $550 million to go toward the nation’s roads and bridges. She said the alternative she proposed in May, the American Infrastructure Modernization Act, would have been a more effective solution.

“It takes $650 billion from the nearly $1 trillion that is unspent, already approved by congress and was supposed to be for COVID relief,” Boebert said. “We knew when we were passing the $1.9 trillion budget reconciliation that less than 9% of it went to anything COVID or health-related, and now we have $1 trillion sitting unspent, approved by congress, and my bill would take $650 billion of that and put it toward real infrastructure without adding to inflation and without raising your taxes.”

On Thursday, the House Committee on Natural Resources unanimously voted to pass Boebert’s amendment to the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget of Fiscal Year 2022 to keep the BLM headquarters in Grand Junction.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland joined Boebert, Senators John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet, Gov. Jared Polis and the Colorado congressional delegation in Grand Junction in July as part of a visit to evaluate the Western Slope’s future as the hub for the program that oversees federal lands nationally.

Boebert wasn’t “reassured” by Haaland’s comments, but she was provided more hope that the BLM headquarters would remain in the Grand Valley, hope that grew Thursday.

“We need that hands-on input for the lands here in the west,” Boebert said. “We don’t need another bureaucracy in Washington, D.C., making decisions for us here in the west. The travel that it saves, just having people right here, it’s so important.”

She is, however, vehemently opposed to President Joe Biden’s proposed nomination to serve as BLM director, Tracy Stone-Manning, who she referred to as “crazy” and as an “ecoterrorist.”

Stone-Manning’s nomination has been roiled in controversy over her past ties to tree spiking. She anonymously wrote a letter in 1989 warning against logging in Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest because of spikes that had been placed in the trees. She confirmed in federal court testimony in 1993 that she had typed the letter on behalf of an activist responsible for the tree spikings.

Boebert said that, if Hickenlooper and Bennet won’t convince Biden to rescind her nomination, they should at least receive Stone-Manning’s assurance that the BLM headquarters won’t move back to Washington, D.C.

“I don’t believe that an eco-terrorist should be directing the BLM, but we’ve seen extreme nominations this year already,” Boebert said. “I’m proud to say that I led the charge in opposing (David) Chipman’s nomination with the ATF, and now, we’ve seen that they’ve withdrawn that nomination. Perhaps, perhaps, if we all collectively get together and are loud enough, maybe we can get another director nominated for the BLM.”