Guest Opinion: Tipton out of touch on Thompson Divide issue |

Guest Opinion: Tipton out of touch on Thompson Divide issue

Randy Melton
Staff Photo |

I am an outfitter, a cowboy and a veteran. I spent more than a decade of my life fighting to defend liberty in some of the most hellish countries on earth. I am proud to have served my country, and to have protected everything that makes it great.

These days, however, I’ve traded my flak jacket for a duster and my M4 for a .45-70 lever action rifle. I now earn a living as a hunting guide and cattle wrangler in some of the most beautiful country on earth — the Thompson Divide area of the White River National Forest.

I’ve spent countless hours traversing the remote ridge lines of the Divide in the same way that Teddy Roosevelt traversed them more than a century ago — in a leather saddle. I’ve come to appreciate this landscape and all that it provides for our community. I’ve come to appreciate that these are public lands, and that we all have a duty to protect them.

Fortunately for us, I’m not the only one who recognizes the need to conserve the Thompson Divide. Over the years, our rural communities have come together, regardless of political affiliations, in an effort to protect this area for hunting, fishing, grazing and recreation. County commissioners and local town councils have joined us in urging our government to set these lands aside for the next generation.

This is why I was stunned to see Congressman Tipton — a politician claiming to represent Western Slope ranchers and sportsmen — peddling the interests of Texas oil speculators on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Shame on him.

Mr. Tipton downright ignored our local concerns, and then claimed that folks working to protect these lands are just a bunch of “environmental extremists.” For some reason, I don’t think he’s been paying attention.

Just to be clear, these lands are our lands. They belong to the public. And they cannot be bought and sold. That’s just one of the things that makes our country great.

Now, I’m no tree-hugger, and you can safely wager that I don’t vote for Democrats. But I am firm in my belief that the greatest resource in the Thompson Divide is found on its surface — not underneath it.

We do not need to drill everywhere. It’s as simple as that. There are some places that should be left alone. And if that makes me an environmental extremist, then so be it.

But I’d wager that most any man or woman who’s spent a day on a horse in the Thompson Divide would agree.

Randy Melton is a decorated veteran who now works as an outfitter and cattle wrangler in Redstone, and has guided hundreds of hunts into the Thompson Divide.

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