“Coloradans know what’s best for our state – not Washington”: The CORE Act and the Role of State Politicians in Federal Land Management

Sometimes our usual public lands disagreements get wrapped up in partisan politics, which always invoke more heat than light. I thought this article was interesting, given that we were just discussing the roles of State politicians in deciding what happens on federal lands in Alaska. Here in Colorado, we have local people who disagree among themselves about what is best. We also have federal elected officials who disagree with each other. So we have an opportunity to ask “if politicians themselves disagree within the state, who can best be said to be making a claim of legitimacy based on geography?”

Senator Bennet seems to be arguing for Colorado (state) as a legitimate level for decisionmaking on federal lands.

“Coloradans know what’s best for our state – not Washington,” Bennet said in a written statement on Tuesday. “The CORE Act was drafted by Coloradans, for Coloradans – engaging with stakeholders across the state for nearly a decade to hammer out a reasonable public lands bills with broad support.”

Of course, not all Coloradans agree about this bill, as we’ve previously discussed, including the local Representative, Scott Tipton. So Congressional Districts are not the right level, but States are. Which is OK, but then (1) would that make Alaska state influences equally legitimate, or not? Note: Colorado did its own Roadless Rule (ultimately signed off by Obama/Hickenlooper)
Or perhaps Utah?

(2) What is it that makes Front Range congressfolk so interested in public lands not in their district?

“The White House also said that not enough local input has been addressed when it comes to the legislation, which is expected to get a vote this week in the U.S. House.” And of course, again, is the question there wasn’t enough input, or that it wasn’t listened to? I don’t believe that folks working on legislation do a “response to comments” so that the rest of us could figure this out. (3) What exactly is “local input”, how local is it and would we know it if we saw it? And how could the rest of us judge it without a “response to comments?”

8 thoughts on ““Coloradans know what’s best for our state – not Washington”: The CORE Act and the Role of State Politicians in Federal Land Management”

  1. Ditto, Utah – Bears Ears. Grand Staircase. SLC vs the rest of Utah. Indigenous communities vs whites.

    In Montana, there is NREPA with no significant local support by sponsored by someone by east.

    I’m guilty myself, when people from Missoula feel they are local when it comes to Bitterroot National Forest issues.

  2. I’ve been getting emails from some conservation orgs and politicians urging me to call my reps and senators to support this act, but when I go looking for the nitty gritty of the bill itself info seems sketchy. Public land use is not the kind of thing I can simply support via my political party or on a left right kind of basis. Often “locals” means local business people who stand to make money, I mean I haven’t heard of any voting, who is to say what locals want.

    Peter Kareiva who used to be the lead scientist at the Nature Conservancy once said something to the extent of “those most affected by a conservation action should have the most influence over that action” or something like that. I’ve considered his words when some issue or another comes up. Who is hurt? Who makes money? Whose life is changed?

    Big Wilderness area, which I’m reflexively supportive of. Big Recreation area too which I’m reflexively leary of. More fragmented habitat? Any limits on ATVs and mountain bikes? Shooting range? Free camping?

    Lately Big Rec is big business in Colorado, something the left (Polis, Degette) center (Hickenlooper, Bennet) and right in the form of all kinds of Chamber of Commerce, and industries can support. Tech companies open up big offices here so employees can be attracted by the recreation and low house prices.

    Sounds good, wonder what they are hiding.

  3. “given that we were just discussing the roles of State politicians in deciding what happens on federal lands in Alaska.”

    As an Alaskan, I find your comparisons of Alaskan and Coloradan constituencies have limited validity. The overwhelming national consensus echoes Alaskans’ support for the Roadless Rule as it stands — quite unlike Coloradans – and therefore inappropriate.

    But there is something much more worthy of comparison. Even absent the Rule, (e.g. Bennet’s statement, “Coloradans know what’s best for our state – not Washington,”) the pattern is unmistakably comparable.

    Bought-off politicians in both Alaska and Colorado in the service of campaign debts to oil and gas corporations, and Trump’s authoritarian decrees in the service of oil and gas extractivism are in stark contrast to public opinion.

    For example:
    The municipality of Skagway and its borough assembly just unanimously passed a resolution against the elimination of the Roadless Rule on the Tongass. There were no comments or letters opposing the resolution.

    The “roles of State politicians” such as the Alaska delegation and our Governor in collusion with Trump are quite clear here– to impose their neoliberal diktats upon their constituencies in flagrant disregard of overwhelming state and national support for the Roadless Rule on the Tongass and elsewhere. Unsurprisingly, 140,000 additional public comments were received by USFS recently on the matter of elimination of Roadless on the Tongass were overwhelmingly in opposition to the elimination of the Rule.

    It should then come as no surprise, both Alaska’s Governor and our president face recall and impeachment proceedings on constitutional grounds, while Coloradans bemoan what persists in the absence of the Roadless Rule.

  4. Nobody has scared me enough with their fear based rhetoric for me to look into this or donate money to the cause. I guess that means bicycles and logging aren’t part of the issue?

  5. I noted back in the day that Dale Bosworth, then FS Chief, should NEVER sign off on the CO Roadless plan (or ANY state initiative), but leave that “political decision” to the USDA Secy, an appointed politician. (Recall that the state roadless petition policy was enacted during the Bush admin as a Roadless Rule end-run, after the courts ruled against them). My logic being that no self-respecting federal official should cede decision authority to a state govt, just as no state would ever give a FS Chief authority over state forest lands. We now have the State of AK seeking to impose their (local) will over national lands in defiance of broad opposition even in AK.

    It’s an easy and appealing local argument to make that locals always know best; that doesn’t make it true. Important and powerful national policies are often “best for what ails ya” even though they’d never make it locally. Could USA climb out of depression relying on local initiatives only? FDR didn’t think so. A forest-by-forest approach to solving the “timber sales in roadless areas” quagmire had bedeviled the FS for about 20 years. It needed a comprehensive solution.

    • JIm, my memory is that it was more complicated than that at least for Colorado. It was the State’s recommendation that we had to go along with, the Sec could still decide yay or nay. Then there was the Roadless Rule FACA committee, RACNAC that gave a range of “national” opinions.

      Also note: there was a period of time that the 2001 Roadless Rule was enjoined in court and folks went ahead with some oil and gas leasing. That’s why there were so-called “gap leases.” Even more confusing was when it was enjoined by the courts, and we had to get individual projects approved by the WO, but they were only approved if they followed (the enjoined) 2001 Rule. This seemed like contempt of court to me, but I was only a shuffler of requests…I was assured by our OGC folks that it was OK, but I did not find their arguments convincing.

  6. RE: “(2) What is it that makes Front Range congressfolk so interested in public lands not in their district?”

    I bet it has something to do with the fact that people live in the Front Range still like to recreate all over the state and that public lands across the whole state draw people and money to the Front Range. Also, many people living in the Front Range are from elsewhere in Colorado and still regard that elsewhere as “home.”

    • Well, I think that’s my point. If I left CO to move to Texas, should I still get a vote- as we know many Texans recreate in southern Colorado, and they are federal lands…

      People using national forests for recreation or other reasons(category 1)
      People adjacent to (affected by) (category 2)
      Other interested parties in the state (category 3)
      Other interested parties elsewhere (category 4).

      I was just pointing out that most of the time in discussing forest planning (clearly not the same as legislation) we talk about 1, 2, and 4, and don’t give 3 a predominant place.


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