Moffat County wants dialogue with new governor

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Governor-elect John Hickenlooper’s approach to managing Colorado’s natural resources is somewhat of a mystery to Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers, he said.

That’s all the more reason why Mathers wants to sit down and discuss land policy with the governor to be, he said.

“I guess I’d like to meet with him and talk with him and let him know how important our natural resources are not only to just us in Moffat County, but as revenue in the state to help balance the budget,” he said. “I’d like him to help us develop our natural resources, which would help him balance the state budget.

“That’d be a win-win for both sides of the mountain.”

At its regular Tuesday meeting, the Moffat County Commission approved, 3-0, signing and send-

ing a letter drafted by the Moffat County Land Use Board to Hickenlooper about the commission’s stance on energy development in Vermillion Basin and other land use issues.

The letter also requests a meeting with Hickenlooper, either in Moffat County or Denver.

“Writing a letter of invitation and encouragement for further discussion is one way we will know his positions before he makes decisions,” commissioner Audrey Danner said.

When asked if she thought Hickenlooper would accept the invitation, Danner said, “You assume the best in people.”

“I see no reason why he wouldn’t,” she said. “I don’t believe I would be signing a letter to him if I thought he had no interest. I have to assume he will respond.”

The land use board recommended the commission send the letter to Hickenlooper, Moffat County Natural Resources Director Jeff Comstock said.

“It was brought up that governor-elect Hickenlooper needed to be made aware of the county’s position on Vermillion Basin and other things,” he said. “So, the land use board made a unanimous (decision) to send the governor a letter informing him of our position and asking to talk with him about that.”

The letter states the commission appreciates comments Hickenlooper made during his campaign about the “need for local collaboration and community input regarding federal land management decisions and water projects.”

“It is no secret that we believe that Washington politics, which favored an extreme viewpoint, interfered with a balanced management plan for Vermillion Basin in (Northwest) Colorado,” the letter reads. “Moffat County strongly supports an environmentally secure plan that allows for economic opportunities in Vermillion Basin.”

The letter goes on to outline why the county commission opposed the Bureau of Land Management’s recent decision to keep the 77,000-acre basin closed to energy development as part of its proposed resource management plan.

“Not developing this basin in an environmentally responsible manner leaves ($700 million) of resource in the ground, denies over $25 million to our county taxing districts and denies over $43 million to the state of Colorado,” the letter reads. “While not everyone supports what we believe is the most environmentally protective and economically balanced approach to developing Vermillion Basin, we believe the draft plan, known as the 1-percent proposal from the Bureau of Land Management, is a balanced and viable solution.”

The letter also requests the commission be allowed to talk with Hickenlooper about Colorado House Bill 10-1365, also known as the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act, and future management of the Yampa and Green rivers.

“It’s a proactive step,” Danner said.

Commissioner Tom Gray agreed, adding he hopes the letter expresses the commission’s interest in maintaining a “balanced approach” to land management.

Jean Stetson, a land use board member, said she wanted to “keep the door open” to Hickenlooper for discussions about issues and policies “affecting our county so dramatically” during the commission’s Tuesday discussion of the letter.

“We are hopeful because it is our impression that he is a little bit more open to the idea of consensus building and the whole process we went through,” Stetson said. “… Whereas some of the previous administration has pretty much shut down the work done by the collaborative process.

“We are hoping we can encourage him to be collaborative and not a one-man show.”

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