Garfield County finds allies for federal lobbying
Garfield County is beefing up its lobbying power outside Colorado when it comes to federal public lands and natural resource issues.County commissioners recently agreed to join the conservative Western Counties Alliance, a coalition of mostly rural counties in Utah, Nevada, Wyoming and Montana that focuses on federal land and resource management policies. Garfield County becomes the first Colorado county to join the organization.According to WCA representative Ken Brown of Utah, the WCA was formed six years ago at the urging of the Western Congressional Caucus, a group of about 30-40 Republican members of Congress, to address public lands issues.”The WCA advocates balanced, multiple-use management of the public lands and natural resources, responsible economic development and sensible environmental standards,” according to the coalition’s mission statement, posted at http://www.westerncounties.org.The WCA becomes the county’s sixth fee-based political affiliation involving lobbying groups.Among the county’s more prominent long-standing affiliations are Club 20, a coalition of Western Slope counties in Colorado, Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments and Colorado Counties Incorporated.But those organizations are more focused on state-level politics.”State associations are important, but they have a pretty full plate with tax and human services issues,” WCA representative Ken Brown said during a Dec. 5 presentation to the Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). “It’s often difficult for state associations to really get into public land issues.”Achieving full funding of the federal obligation to public land counties to make payments in lieu of taxes (PILT) is a major focus of the organization, Brown said.A former county commissioner in Utah, Brown said he was often surprised when his county’s PILT check would come in less than expected.”Our goal became to be more active in changing the PILT formula so that every county is paid the same,” he said.According to the WCA website, other current lobbying efforts are focused on: • Reforming the Wilderness Act, and in particular, “educating the public, the media policy makers about why formal wilderness designation is almost invariably irresponsible land and resource management.”• Protecting public access to public lands and publicly owned roads.• Supporting ranching and rangeland rehabilitation through education, policy analysis, application of sound science to policy issues, “and refuting the misinformation circulated by most grazing opponents.”• Reforming the Endangered Species Act, “to bring it more in line with science, common sense and sound resource stewardship.”• Supporting responsible and expeditious development of the public’s energy resources.• Calling for in-depth oversight of the Federal Land Policy Management Act.In addition to its members counties, WCA is also aligned with similar coalitions of counties in New Mexico and Arizona, Brown said.The group also remains involved in lobbying against changes to the federal 1872 Mining Law, as well as on travel management plans for U.S. Forest Service lands.Two-thirds of Garfield County is made up of federal public lands. The BOCC agreed to an annual fee of $3,500 to join WCA.email@example.com
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