Garfield County commissioners hear from, lend further support to D.C. public-lands lobbyist

Garfield County commissioners say they stand behind a public-lands lobbyist, working on behalf of the county in Washington, D.C., after some recently questioned the cost to retain him.

At the Oct. 3 Board of County Commissioners meeting, Carbondale resident Will Hodges asked if the commissioners intended to keep paying Robert Weidner of the Rural Public Lands County Council after his performance was questioned by county staff earlier this year.

Between 2012 and 2020, the county paid Weidner $327,500 to lobby on the county’s behalf related to a variety of issues.

He remains on retainer for $20,000 a year.

His work relates to concerns around public-lands access via historic rights-of-way, granted under federal Revised Statute 2477; ensuring the county receives its fair share of federal Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and other disbursements related to public lands; endangered species matters, including the effort to revise the Greater Sage-Grouse protections; and, more recently, to keep tabs on issues related to the Biden Administration’s 30-by-30 initiative to increase land conservation efforts, which the commissioners oppose.

Hodges pointed to a Jan. 17, 2022 memo from then-Deputy County Manager Fred Jarman and procurement officer Jamaica Watts noting several concerns related to Weidner’s performance. Among them, that he:

  • Did not provide the required monthly reports to the commissioners and county staff on any legislative developments and other matters of importance;
  • Requested payment in lump sums prior to services being rendered;
  • Submitted invoices lacking in hourly detail were too general in nature and did not follow the county’s adopted procurement process; and,
  • Could not provide any performance measures.

Commissioners at that time agreed to rectify those concerns and to require regular updates to the board, either in person or virtually.

Weidner appeared before the commissioners via Zoom on Monday to give an update on his recent efforts, along with a request for another $5,000 for recent services rendered.

He said headway has been made in obtaining bipartisan support from legislators in western states, including Nevada, for a bill related to historic rights-of-way and preserving access. Garfield County was involved in drafting that bill.

“We are getting a favorable response, including a couple of possible Democratic sponsors,” he said, adding he believes some of the concerns from the environmental lobby related to the bill have been addressed. “The plan is moving in the direction we want it to.” 

Commissioners thanked Weidner for his efforts to help secure PILT payments to Garfield County and for being their “eyes and ears” in Washington on a variety of subjects.

Hodges, echoing concerns raised by county commissioner candidate Ryan Gordon, who is challenging incumbent Commissioner Tom Jankovsky in the Nov. 8 election, questioned why the county kept Weidner under contract if his work for eight years was deemed subpar by county staff.

The commissioners indicated they didn’t completely agree with staff’s assessment of his work and said they believe Weidner has done, and continues to do, a good job for the county.

“He earns his keep,” Commission Chairman John Martin said at the Oct. 3 meeting. “At this time, I believe we’re all satisfied.” 

Commissioner Mike Samson also stood behind the county’s use of lobbyists and consultants on a variety of issues, especially as they relate to public lands.

“You learn very quickly that if you don’t have somebody in Washington, D.C. on a formal basis talking to people and gathering information, you don’t get a whole lot done,” he said. “We need someone there talking to those people, getting information and giving our information to them.”

Jankovsky said at the Monday meeting that he would like to expand the scope of Weidner’s services around oil and gas leasing, and the new supplemental EIS for leasing that resulted from a recent court ruling in Garfield and Mesa counties. 

“Right now, we can’t get new leases for oil and gas,” Jankovsky said of requirements to include downstream impact information when new leases are proposed.

With Colorado’s heightened regulations and testing, natural gas coming from the state’s gas reserves should have less impact on the climate than gas from other regions, he said.

“There is a lot going on with federal issues, and it’s overwhelming to keep up with them,” Jankovsky said in support of continuing to pay a D.C. lobbyist to keep on top of those issues.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or

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