Carbondale CO – September 22, 2016

Twelve candidates running for public office gathered to answer questions and discuss land transfers, funding and management of public lands.  Participants included Gail Schwartz, candidate for the US Congress, District 3, Colorado State Senate District 8 candidate Emily Tracy, Colorado State House candidates Diane Mitsch Bush (District 26) and Millie Hamner (District 61), Garfield County Commissioner candidates John Acha and John Martin, Eagle County Commissioner candidates Michael Dunahay, Jill Ryan, Kathy Chandler-Henry and Rick Beveridge, Pitkin County Commissioner candidates Scott Writer and Greg Poschman.  Representative Scott Tipton (U.S. Congress), and Michael Cacioppo provided written statements.

Overall the majority of candidates expressed strong support for public lands and each had specific reasons for their support.  In response to the question about land transfers, not one candidate came out in favor of a full scale federal land transfer to the states or private individuals.  Candidates discussed the difficulty states would have raising revenue to manage public lands and the increased threat of sale of lands to private interests such as oil and gas exploration and logging.  Several reminded us that for rural western Colorado, public lands are crucial to the economy through skiing, hunting and recreation as well as to water quality and habitat protection.

All agreed that transfer of public lands to the states or privatization of public lands would increase oil and gas drilling and logging.   Fears that local input would be reduced, loss of sensitive habitats and reduced regulations were cited.   There were a few arguments for limited transfers for local use such as affordable housing and more local control.

There was unanimous agreement by all candidates that agencies that manage public lands are desperately underfunded.  Several mentioned that fighting wildfires has decimated forest service budgets and that wild fire suppression should be funded by FEMA. Several candidates pointed out that because of insufficient funding, counties are increasingly relied on to help with trail maintenance and emergency services on public lands.

All candidates agreed that Climate Change is real and that it does affect public lands.  Most offered that it is a crisis that needs real solutions.  It affects our economies, especially our ski areas, as well as tourism.  Increased deforestation due to beetle kill, habitat changes because of reduced snowpack,  rising temperatures, wildfires and increased emissions all interact to degrade public lands.   Candidates spoke to the importance of renewable energy efficiency, limiting coal fired emissions and the need to make forests more resilient.    The importance of federal lands and federal land management as a way of protecting the forests and the headwaters of rivers was offered as necessary in the fight against climate change.

 

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