Letter: Stepp supports grouse, and a strong economy | PostIndependent.com

Letter: Stepp supports grouse, and a strong economy

Paula Stepp has my vote for Garfield County Commissioner because I’m tired of our tax dollars being used to weaken protections for Western Colorado’s wildlife and public lands.

The current commissioners have spent many thousands of our hard-earned dollars to keep the threatened greater sage grouse from being listed as an endangered species. While that could slow the habitat loss causing the birds’ long-term decline, it’s also likely to mean less oil and gas (O&G) drilling on federal land.

It’s a complex and divisive issue, but the county commissioners have chosen to side with the O&G industry by:

• Contracting for expensive consulting services from the American Stewards of Liberty (ASL) — a Texas-based activist group opposed to endangered species protections.

• Hiring a wildlife biologist, well-known for producing studies favoring the O&G industry, to challenge federal agencies’ sage grouse population data.

• Suing the BLM to block new rules — recently overturned by Congress — that would have increased public involvement in land use and resource management plans.

It’s fine for the commissioners to support the O&G industry, which provides high-paying jobs and much of the county’s tax revenue. But the industry should pay for its own legal and lobbying initiatives.

By funneling tax dollars to partisan groups like ASL and questionable science-for-hire consultants, the county loses credibility, worsens its relationship with federal agencies and further politicizes an issue that should be resolved by objective, unbiased science.

Paula Stepp appreciates the O&G industry’s contributions to the region’s economy. But she also understands the vital importance to our growing tourism and outdoor products industries of preserving healthy wildlife habitat — not just for the greater sage grouse, but also for mule deer, elk, eagles, cutthroat trout and hundreds of other species.

Garfield County needs leaders like Paula who will work to encourage a strong, more diverse economy, as well as a healthy environment. Electing her will be a good first step.

Russ Arensman

Glenwood Springs

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