Letter: County commissioners spending taxpayer dollars to undermine the Endangered Species Act | PostIndependent.com

Letter: County commissioners spending taxpayer dollars to undermine the Endangered Species Act

Garfield County plans to spend more than $200,000 to prove the federal government is using “bad science” to protect the greater sage-grouse (Oct. 14, GSPI). To correct that apparent injustice, our county funds are now being funneled to an assortment of partisan scientists, consultants and advocacy groups who’ll no doubt try to prove that the grouse are doing just fine.

So why are our county commissioners suddenly taking such a keen interest in wildlife biology? They’re worried that the feds may list the grouse for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). And that could interfere with oil and gas exploration, mining, grazing, even ski area development across the western U.S.

It’s a high-stakes battle pitting environmental groups like the Sierra Club against pro-development rivals like the American Stewards of Liberty. And now our elected officials are wading right into the middle of the debate with their own posse of experts for hire, including a Front Range biologist whose objectivity has been frequently questioned.

Speaking of the American Stewards, the county has approved nearly $40,000 in payments since 2012 to this Texas-based group, which claims credit for having stopped the proposed ESA listing of the dunes sagebrush lizard last year. Headed by part-time lobbyist Dan Byfield and his wife Margaret, the Stewards reveal little on their website (www.americanstewards.us) about their membership or donors. But they do say they’re preparing “a long-range offensive plan to save our homeland” from “a very hostile federal government.”

That may give them solid tea party credentials, but what do the Byfields know about grouse? And is supporting their anti-government agenda really an appropriate use of our local tax dollars? If you ask me, the county has no business using our hard-earned funds for a clearly partisan effort to undermine the Endangered Species Act (a long-settled law, signed into effect by President Nixon in 1973).

Here’s an idea: The county could offer to balance the playing field by allocating $40,000 to the Sierra Club. But better yet, let’s get our tax dollars out of the politics-masquerading-as-science game, and let the real scientists do their jobs.

Russ Arensman

Glenwood Springs

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