Tell the Forest Service how to manage your land

Here in Western Colorado, we are surrounded by glorious National Forests. Who owns them?

Do you think it’s the government? No, it’s you! And me, and all the citizens of this great land. We own them together.

The government — in this case, the Forest Service — just manages them on our behalf. We own the forests and they manage them. And it’s time for the owners to tell the managers how they want them managed.

Every few decades, the U.S. Forest Service creates a new management plan called a forest plan. For the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests, the last time a new Forest Plan was completed was something like 1984. Closing in on forty years! It’s way overdue for a do-over.

One major step in the creation of a forest plan is gathering public input. Right now, the Forest Service has already put forward draft management plans, with four alternatives, ranging from “keep doing what we’ve been doing,” to “Drill, baby drill,” to “preserve everything we can.” Naturally, the final result will be some combination of all of the above.

With that draft available now for public review, the U.S. Forest Service has extended the time frame for you, me and everyone to submit our comments about things like: what we know about the land and its resources, what we want from the land we own and how we’d like them to manage it to achieve those goals. I encourage you to submit your comments, too.

For myself, I will be asking them to keep wild places wild, to keep the water clean and flowing, to foster diverse habitat where wildlife of all sorts can thrive, to see to it that timber operations are only a tool to make the wildland/urban interface more resilient in the face of wildfires, to make sure extractive industries and other economic uses have the least possible impact on the health and beauty of our shared resources and to have quiet places to restore my soul and soak in the beauty and wonder and healing of nature without the noise and pressure of “civilization.”

Tell your land managers which values mean the most to you. Yes, they are required to pay attention to what we want, as land owners, for and from our land. But they also want to hear from us.

The extended comment period ends the day after Thanksgiving. You can go to the GMUG Forest Plan website and submit your comments there. For further help or ideas for comments, feel free to contact the Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action.

Maybe I’ll see you out there on a trail.



Rising gas prices come from poor decisions

Last weekend I sat down to pay our middle-of-the-month bills. When I got to our natural gas bill — Xcel is our provider — I had one of those alternative reality experiences that sometimes afflict those of us in what are, laughably, called “our golden years.”

The experience was surreal because I saw an amount due that didn’t seem to have any connection with what I used to think of as normality.

We pay Xcel an average monthly estimate of our annual gas purchases. Xcel uses the term “Average Monthly Payment,” abbreviated to AMP. Our AMP for the last year was $46 per month. With our new annual adjustment, it is $103 per month.

This translates to an increase of 124%. No, that is not a typo. Xcel projects that our gas costs will more than double this year. With no change in use, mind you.

My wife and I are fortunate. We are able to absorb this increase. But what about retired teachers on fixed incomes? Or military veterans on disability? Or single mothers, or people whose sole income is a social security check? And this in a nation that has so much natural gas that we obsess about a minuscule percentage of it leaking from pipelines and processing facilities.

I suggest that the problem comes from the top. Both at the federal level and in many state governments, we have elected regimes that have created powerful disincentives to the production and sale of natural gas, while at the same time forcing its use for electrical generation, thus ballooning demand. Limiting supply while amplifying demand is a classic formula for inflated prices.

There is a lesson here. Electing fools, charlatans and thieves to high public office is not the smartest thing we can do.


Grand Junction

Commending drivers for keeping cyclists safe

I appreciated Sunday’s article “Collision Course” and its emphasis on the need for mutual courtesy and respect between cyclists and motorists.

That said, I’d like to commend the vast majority of drivers in the Grand Valley who go out of their way to give cyclists some extra space. The vibe out here is so much nicer than it is on the Front Range, where every bike ride felt like a flirtation with danger. So thank you all!