Monday letters: County commissioners, mitigation funds, setbacks, environmental health, herd immunity, wolves, and running for office
It’s their job!
I’ve recently read articles blasting the Garfield County commissioners for spending $1.5 million challenging COGCC and the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission over the establishment of certain new rules regulating the gas and oil industry within Colorado.
Consider the fact that the gas and oil industry is a major job creator and supports numerous related gas and oil service businesses as well as the taxes it provides to Garfield County, it certainly seems reasonable to me that the Garfield Commissioners would need to be a part of the conversation when it comes to rules and regulations that are proposed. For instance, is a rule or regulation being considered by COGCC based upon the data and science or is it based upon political pressure and simply arbitrary? It’s certainly within the purview of any county Board of Commissioners in the entire country to be actively involved in that discussion for the benefit of its citizens.
It seems to me, that no matter what the industry is that support the economic base of Garfield County, whether it be lumber, mining, recreation, health or anything else, then the Garfield County Commissioners would be negligent if they didn’t participate in the implementation of any new rules and reguations that affect those industries and, by extension, the residents of Garfield County. After all, It’s their job!
Discuss how mitigation funds should be spent
In the mid-2000s the Garfield County commissioners created the Oil and Gas Mitigation Fund described as a rainy day fund for Garfield County so that funds would be available when it comes to the impact of energy and mineral development. I interpreted that to mean it would address any negative impacts created by the oil and gas industry. That was very important to Battlement Mesa residents who live close to many gas well pads.
However, our three gas-well-friendly county commissioners interpreted that to mean they could use those funds in any way they choose, so they chose to give the gas well industry $1.5 million to fight against the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s preliminary rules designed to protect the health, safety, well-being and environment of the residents of Garfield County!
It’s time for a change! We need discussions about how mitigation funds should be spent! We need diversity in gender as well as politics!
Mayor Godes, faux environmentalist?
Mayor Godes, Shelly Kaup, and Rick Voorhees recently took part in a tradition as old as America: taking away property rights. Under the guise of improving river water quality, the City Council has just prohibited all trimming of vegetation on 80% of homeowners’ property along the river. Unbelievably, the Mayor and Shelly Kaup voiced their support for a 90% prohibition.
For the better part of a year, the City Council made it appear as though the ordinance would only strip 50% of owners’ rights but at the last second they executed a “bait and switch” maneuver changing the prohibition to 80%. I congratulate the Mayor on his sneakiness. When I spoke to him, just before his “change of heart” he made no indication to me that he intended to drastically change the ordinance. I, like others, were not motivated to fight the government overreach at 50%. If we had known it would be 80% we would have fought much harder and much earlier.
The Mayor has done nothing to treat the storm water that runs off parking lots, dog parks and strip malls dumping into the river. Instead he targets homeowners’ backyards for confiscation. Homeowners make up a small slice of the total land along the river so effectively homeowners have little impact on water quality.
I argue this ordinance is worse than faux environmentalism. This ordinance has actually had the opposite unintended consequence. Scared homeowners trying to salvage their property values cleared large parts of their land in order to attain grandfather status. This was 100% predictable yet the Mayor knowingly pushed the policy through with hardly any compromise to homeowners. A more reasonable 50% prohibition would have resulted in little to no clearing of vegetation.
The result: there are now fewer plants along the river and peoples’ rights have been trampled. The three council members have revealed how little respect they have for individuals’ property rights. While also, demonstrating their inability to legislate policy that doesn’t predictably backfire.
Maybe your backyard will be next on the crusaders’ hit list.
We must be aware, proactive, health-focused
Air and water — two essentials of life and under constant threats to western Colorado life. We all want clean air and water, typically taking both for granted in our rural area. Emissions and particulate matter in the air is an abstract subject, encompassing the tons of emissions from oil and gas operations and combustion byproducts from many sources. What you don’t see can hurt you. Our quantity of water is threatened by drought conditions and population growth in the arid Southwest and Front Range.
Wildfire smoke warnings during the Grizzly Creek Fire, the death from lung cancer of a very influential person in our lives, along with clusters and incidences of cancers in our western areas of ages young and old piqued my concerns. Fire-related air quality warnings included the fact that tiny particles can enter our bloodstream and cause health impacts. What about other compounds in our air, seen and unseen? Think of diesel smoke. You see it, and then you don’t, or poisoning from carbon monoxide. Both are measurable and go somewhere. Cities around the world including Denver benefited from clearer and cleaner air during the early days of this pandemic. The expanded Colorado Oil and Gas Commission regulations/protections are laudable and workable. Garfield County air quality monitoring (not done since 2016) is needed in Glenwood to quantify impacts of traffic volumes of SH 82 and I-70, being downwind of exploratory impacts, and the potential huge quarry expansion.
As done in the past by resource extraction companies, water speculators have purchased agricultural lands and water rights in western Colorado. They are banking on continued population growth and value of a scarce(r) commodity. Imagine no Olathe sweet corn or Palisade peaches! Perhaps our current county leadership should advocate for a parallel Jordon Cove pipeline to bring water from the Oregon coast to western Colorado? A worthy offset for the estimated 1.5 to 16 million gallons of water used to frack a single well? No more water is being created on Earth. Forest management and cleanup would not have helped with the Grizzly Creek Fire. We must be aware, proactive and health-focused in our world of aridity and scarcity.
What if herd immunity does not work?
On the face of it, herd immunity has a lot going for it. We just encourage everyone to go out and get COVID-19 and then we have communal (herd) immunity so that the virus essentially disappears. Yes it would come at the cost of a tremendous increase in deaths, a tremendous increase in people with long-term complications after getting infected, a tremendous increase in the load on our health care system, and probably a short term hit to the economy. But we could all just “take one for the team” and put this behind us. And in particular the front-line health workers could just “take one for the team” as they would be overly impacted in infections, deaths, and overwork.
But what if the key assumption for COVID-19 herd immunity, that once you get it you are immune from getting it again, is wrong?
Levels of protective antibodies in people wane quite rapidly after coronavirus infection, say researchers.
Antibodies are a key part of our immune defenses and stop the virus from getting inside the body’s cells.
The Imperial College London team found the number of people testing positive for antibodies has fallen by 26% between June and September.
They say immunity appears to be fading and there is a risk of catching the virus multiple times.
Add to this the fact that the virus also appears to be mutating, creating new strains that we might not be immune to, and that the more people infected, the faster the virus mutates, we could be in for a perpetual cycle of misery with COVID-19.
So until we have an effective vaccine for this (and everyone will need to be vaccinated at nearly the same time and probably more than once), why not take advantage of what science knows now? That is that wearing masks and practicing social distancing dramatically cuts the spread of the virus.
The person this could save is you!
We can ranch with wolves
As a rangeland and wildlife scientist, and as a former ranch manager, I would like to point out a few of the mistruths in the recent op-ed against wolf restoration. “Two sources: people and scientists”? Scientists are people, sir, and you would do well to pay attention to our findings. Most of us who study wolves, or their interactions with elk, or with the land, have come to find them a fascinating aspect of our continent’s native wildness, but one that doesn’t live up to its mythic reputation.
Across the current wolf range in the Northern Rockies, which very nearly overlaps elk range, there are actually more elk now than at the time wolves were reintroduced. There are a couple of geographically small exceptions, including the one referred to as though it were the rule. The range science community in Montana agrees that the northern Yellowstone range was overgrazed by elk. Since wolf reintroduction, that elk herd has stabilized at a level similar to what it was before it exploded decades ago in the absence of predators. Scientists don’t agree on whether wolves should get most of the credit.
The question to Coloradans is whether or not they want to sidestep their politicians and empower the biologists in their state agency to work with stakeholders to develop and implement a scientific plan to restore a native species. The reason wolf restoration is on the ballot is that state law prohibits reintroduction of a native species without a legislative mandate.
I’ve run cattle on the western slope. I’ve worked with ranchers in wolf and grizzly country in the Northern Rockies. We can ranch with wolves. And we’re going to have to if we’re going to claim to be true stewards of the land and wildlife.
The author is right about one thing: it’s about more than wolves. It’s about world views, values, and whether we want western Colorado to be a landscape completely dominated by ranching and hunting, or a middle ground in which we acknowledge that wildness, and the wolves that symbolize it, also are part of our western heritage.
Thank you for running for office
Every person that runs for office wants to give back to their community, thinks they have good ideas and wants what is best for where they live.
Running for office is not an easy thing to do. It takes a lot of hard work. You must be able to hear people scrutinize you, ask people for money, spend hours on the phone and talk endlessly to fellow citizens. It’s called campaigning.
I would like to take a moment to acknowledge everyone who has run for office and has served in some elected office. I hope that folks realize this can be a thankless job. Almost always, someone will not like a decision you have had to make.
So, before we know who won and who lost this election, from the bottom of my heart, thank you all for running for office.
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