Our View: Creating communication

The story goes like this.

Gov. Bill Ritter flies into Moffat County to look at the Vermillion Basin.

He does so without contacting Sen. Jack Taylor, Rep. Al White or the Moffat County Board of County Commissioners - basically, the people who have been elected to represent the area and its interests.

Instead, he reportedly chose the environmentalist group to be his flight companion.

This comes after Harris Sherman, director of the Department of Natural Resources, sent a letter, proposing to shut off the Vermillion Basin to oil and gas development for the foreseeable future.

However, this is in direct contrast to what many members of Northwest Colorado Stewardship, or NWCOS, decided as a preferred alternative for the Bureau of Land Management's proposed Resource Management Plan - a plan years in the making that will impact Moffat County land use for 15 to 20 years once approved.

The governor did not meet with NWCOS members to discuss their work, and, as aforementioned, he did not talk to those who have been elected to represent the Moffat County public at large.

The county commissioners took great offense to the governor's unannounced visit, as well as Sherman's stance on the Vermillion Basin. They wrote a letter. Not just a letter, but one some have dubbed "strongly worded," while others have called it "childish."

In this letter, the commissioners discussed how they offered the governor a tour of the basin, which he has yet to take, accused him of "establishing a vision for future management of the area" without consulting the people who live here, and how he is undercutting future economic growth in the area - "when an opportunity arises to receive the benefit of gas development within the Vermillion Basin and (we) begin to lift one foot out of the ditch in which we've been standing, you attempt to cut off both legs."

Strong actions on one side. Strong words on the other.

So, what's at stake in the process?

On one side, you have oil and gas development saying it's about the U.S. becoming more energy-independent, as well as the Moffat County Commissioners claiming there is $5.85 billion in gas reserve in Vermillion Basin, which, if it were closed, would deny $731.25 million to the federal treasury, $365.6 million to the state of Colorado and $5.7 million to the Moffat County taxing entities. All of this, this side claims, with minimal disturbance to the Vermillion Basin area.

On the other side, you have environmental groups seeking to preserve an area that they believe to be a gem, an area where we can protect species, an area that we can leave to our children in perfect condition.

The moral of this story? Well, there are at least two. One: There is a lot at stake with these decisions. Two: two wrongs do not make a right.

The editorial board believes it was wrong for Gov. Ritter to not seek input from a wide range of people who have worked so hard on this plan. Again, there is much riding on the future of the Vermillion Basin. Regardless of what decision he makes, we would prefer it be one where he has taken all sides into account.

The editorial board also believes it was wrong for the county commissioners to respond in such a matter. We applaud that you are standing up for us, but we are not sure it was done in the best manner.

If the governor chooses to act in a way you view as unprofessional, do not stoop to that level. You are better than that. We need to foster the spirit of communication and openness, even if it feels like the other side isn't bringing that to the table.

We understand there is fear that the governor is not listening to the Western Slope. If that is indeed true, we encourage all political entities to take the high road and let our class force him into dealing with us in a fair manner.

Because, at this point, if you were Gov. Ritter, would you deal with Moffat County. Between the embarrassing "get your yee-haw on" slogan hanging above his head to letters that deal low blows, we haven't exactly come off in the best light.

So, with that said, we plead for Gov. Ritter to come to the table and listen to all sides of the equation. Let the Western Slope know that you are indeed listening.

And county commissioners, continue to hold your heads up high, knowing that your intentions were right. And then choose your words to match those intentions.

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