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Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 3, 20179min570

The news of the week in Colorado Politics ran to and from Washington, with the visit of congressional Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, while Gov. John Hickenlooper made a pitch to Washington on healthcare.

These are the stories out staff thinks you should keep in mind in the days and weeks ahead:

El Paso County GOP Chair Trevor Dierdorff (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette)

5. Dierdorff, we hardly knew you

Trevor Dierdorff came in as a “political outsider,” and now he’s headed back outside. He said in an e-mail Thursday he’s stepping down as chairman of the El Paso County Republican Party, the GOP’s largest county chapter. Dierdorff said he wants to focus on his family and business.

Read the full story here.

 

In this Aug. 11, 2016, photo, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Pelosi is advising fellow Democrats to change their cellphone numbers and not let family members read their text messages after personal and official information of Democratic House members and congressional staff was posted online. Pelosi says in a letter to Democrats that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has hired a cybersecurity firm to investigate the hacking of the committee's computers. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
In this Aug. 11, 2016, photo, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

4. Pelosi tells women to grab their greatness against Trump

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi was in Denver last week to speak on an Emerge Colorado panel. She said women should fight back against President Trump by running for office and seizing their power.

Read the full story here.

 

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, answers a question about his votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act at a town hall meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, Colorado. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, answers a question about his votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act at a town hall meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, Colorado. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

3. Gardner says there’s Colorado gold in cybersecurity

As the World Wide Web becomes an increasingly dangerous place for individuals, businesses, governments and elections, cybersecurity is an increasingly vital industry, says Sen. Cory Gardner. Colorado is well-positioned to cash in.

Read the full story here.

 

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Lance Benzel of Colorado Springs climb over a rock slab Tuesday, April 29, 2014, while mountain biking the Oil Well Flats trail area north of Canon City. (Photo by Christian Murdock/The Gazette)

2. Washington West — could this really happen?

Momentum is building to relocate the federal headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation from D.C. to Denver. That would get them closer to the vast majority of assets they protect, but can Colorado politicos close the deal?

Read the full story here.

 

 In this June 27, 2017, file photo, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, right, joined by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, speaks during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, file)

1. Governors roll out HickCare

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper teamed up with Ohio Gov. John Kasich to present a bipartisan healthcar

In this Aug. 11, 2016, photo, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Pelosi is advising fellow Democrats to change their cellphone numbers and not let family members read their text messages after personal and official information of Democratic House members and congressional staff was posted online. Pelosi says in a letter to Democrats that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has hired a cybersecurity firm to investigate the hacking of the committee's computers. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
In this Aug. 11, 2016, photo, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Pelosi is advising fellow Democrats to change their cellphone numbers and not let family members read their text messages after personal and official information of Democratic House members and congressional staff was posted online. Pelosi says in a letter to Democrats that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has hired a cybersecurity firm to investigate the hacking of the committee’s computers. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

e proposal for Congress to consider when it returns from its August recess next week. The proposal preserves the individual mandate to buy health insurance, but it strengthens the partnership between state and federal government on the issue. Will it fly? We’ll find out next week when Hick goes to Washington to present it.

Read the full story here.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 1, 20178min112
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, the national organization formed after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, Friday called upon U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, an Aurora Republican, to drop his support for a measure that they claim would allow guns in schools without a permit. The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (House Resolution 38) […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 30, 20176min720

Grassroots support is growing in Colorado for a possible U.S. Department of the Interior plan to move the headquarters of three federal agencies to Denver.

The plan would be an economic efficiency move at a time the administration of President Donald Trump is being accused of ignoring environmentalists and allowing private industry to overdevelop government-owned property.

A relocation of three agencies to Denver was first reported by E&E News, an online site that reports on energy and environmental issues.

Zinke reportedly suggested moving the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation away from Washington, D.C., to Denver. All three of them are overseen by the Interior Department.

A location closer to the sites where they perform most of their operations on federal property would make them more effective, Zinke reportedly said during a July meeting with U.S. Geological Survey executives in Denver.

Zinke is preparing a reorganization and downsizing of the Interior Department tentatively scheduled to begin in 2019.

The relocation suggestion won quick agreement from organizations that operate close to federal lands in Colorado.

Don Shawcroft, president of Colorado Farm Bureau, said he would like to see regulatory relief come from a move of the federal agencies to Colorado.

“We feel this will create needed reforms to federal regulations that have been driven by Beltway bureaucrats who don’t see firsthand the impacts of overburdensome rulemaking,” Shawcroft said.

Diane Schwenke, president of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, said moving the three Interior Department agencies to Colorado would put them closer to their “stakeholders outside the Beltway, like many of us in Colorado, where our local economies are closely tied to the management decisions they make.”

The Bureau of Land Management is the largest of the three agencies with 11,621 permanent employees. It administers more than 247.3 million acres of public lands, or one-eighth of the nation’s land mass.

Most of the land is located in 12 Western states that include Colorado.

The Bureau of Land Management is supposed to protect the wildlife, natural resources and national monuments on public lands. Private development is allowed through permits.

Ranchers hold nearly 18,000 permits to graze livestock on public lands. Other permits and leases allow oil and gas companies to operate about 63,000 wells on government property.

A Trump administration policy that eases restrictions on oil and gas leases drew a recent warning from the Coalition to Protect America’s Parks, a nonprofit organization of retired National Park Service employees.

“As former land managers, we understand the need to balance competing priorities,” the coalition wrote in a letter to the Interior Department secretary. “But we fear the pendulum is swinging too far to the side of development.”

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation manages the nation’s water resources and operates hydroelectric power plants in western states.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enforces laws to protect the nation’s fish, wild animals and their natural habitats while promoting environmental conservation programs.

Colorado organizations that support moving the agencies west were most interested in the economic benefits.

“The Colorado Wool Growers Association is definitely supportive of the effort to move these agencies to Denver,” said Bonnie Brown, executive director of the Delta-based association. “There is oftentimes a disconnect between [Washington] D.C. staff and what is actually happening on the ground. Having staff live and work near the resources they manage is just common sense.”

She acknowledged that the costs of moving federal agencies away from Washington could be large but added, “The short term transition costs should be offset by the long term savings.”

Kent Singer, executive director of the Colorado Rural Electric Association, said he liked the idea of moving the agencies to Colorado but wondered whether Grand Junction might be a better choice than Denver.

”When we spoke with our congressional delegation during a legislative trip to Washington D.C. in April, we had suggested the Western Slope of Colorado would be an ideal place for the [Bureau of Land Management],” Singer said. “One of the benefits of a [Bureau of Land Management] move to the Western Slope would be job opportunities in that part of the state.”

Members of Colorado’s congressional delegation, including Republicans Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Scott Tipton, have previously advocated moving the Bureau of Land Management to Colorado.


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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusJuly 4, 20176min630
This Thursday, May 5, 2016 file photo Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures during a rally in Charleston, W.Va. Trump’s apparent lock on the Republican presidential nomination means advocates of large-scale transfers of federal lands to states in the West likely won’t find support in the White House regardless of who wins election this November. Advisers and the candidates’ prior statements indicate neither Trump nor Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders favor the wholesale transfers of federal lands. (AP Photo/Steve Helber,File)
(AP Photo/Steve Helber,File)

The Trump administration is examining land use planning procedures and other environmental reviews, keeping in line with its stated commitment to roll back what some consider burdensome requirements.

The Bureau of Land Management said on Monday it is requesting “ideas and input” on how the agency can make procedures and reviews timelier and less costly. The effort comes after President Trump’s March approval of a House Joint Resolution, which nullified the BLM’s Planning 2.0 rule.

The rule gave more power to citizens in approving larger projects on public lands, which includes more than 8 million acres in Colorado.

The Trump administration has sought to roll back several Obama-era environmental actions, including regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon and methane pollution, as well as federal regulatory authority over small bodies of water.

“The decisions made in land use plans and environmental reviews are fundamental to how public lands and resources are used for the benefit of all Americans,” said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. “The Trump Administration and the Department of the Interior are committed to working with state and local governments, communities, Indian tribes, and other stakeholders as true partners to determine the best ways to accomplish this, now and into the future.”

Federal officials are working with state and local elected officials, including the Western Governors’ Association and the National Association of Counties, to engage and gather input. Comments can be taken at a BLM website.

“We are doing this because Secretary Zinke and President Trump both strongly believe that public engagement, especially at the local level, is a critical component of federal land management,” said BLM Director Michael Nedd. “We need and want input from our state and local partners as well as from the general public in this effort.”

A 21-day public input process began on Monday. Following the process, the BLM will prepare a report that will be released later this year.

Resource management plans provide a framework for land use authorization decisions on BLM-managed public lands, including those relating to subsurface federal minerals, according to the BLM.  Most land use authorization decisions are preceded by review under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Through the public NEPA process, the BLM analyzes the effects of proposed plans and land use authorization decisions and discloses them to the public.

The Trump administration review of land use planning procedures falls in line with several Republican efforts to hand back control to the states.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, successfully pushed a measure through the House Natural Resources Committee last week to prohibit the departments of Agriculture and the Interior from requiring the transfer of water rights as a condition of any land-use permit. The bill also requires that future directives from the departments be consistent with state water law.

Tipton said he became concerned over federal attempts to manipulate federal permit, lease and land management processes to circumvent state water law and “hijack” privately held water rights. He pointed to a U.S. Forest Service attempt to require a transfer of privately-held water rights to the federal government as a condition for granting permits on National Forest System lands.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Greeley, backed a measure that would designate the Bureau of Reclamation as the lead coordinating agency for water project permitting among state and federal governments on federal lands.

Buck points to the Northern Integrated Supply Project, a multi-county water storage effort that would impact much of northeastern Colorado. Buck said the project and others face delays because of burdens imposed by federal agencies. He hopes designating an agency to handle such requests would streamline the process.

The permitting of the NISP project has already cost Colorado communities over $15 million and has dragged on for over 13 years, Buck said.

“In Colorado, water is tough to come by, which makes water storage a necessity,” Buck said. “We need to streamline the water project permitting process so that future projects like NISP don’t take over a decade to win a permit.”


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJune 6, 20175min230
David Bernhardt (doi.gov)

 

When Colorado native and Washington insider David Bernhardt sat for his confirmation hearing last month following his selection by the Trump administration as deputy secretary of the interior, he inevitably drew cheers and jeers. The former from Republicans and energy industry advocates fresh from battling the Obama administration’s eight-year crackdown on fossil fuels; the latter, from Democrats and environmentalists now taking up the fight against the Trump Cabinet’s rollback of that crackdown.

Colorado Republican U.S. Sen. Corry Gardner, who fits squarely within the first group, provided Bernhardt’s formal introduction to the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee when the hearing convened. It was a gesture of solidarity not only for a kindred political spirit but also a fellow Coloradan.

Today, the committee voted 14-9 in favor of confirmation; Bernhardt’s nomination now faces a vote by the full Senate. Approval is anticipated given that Republicans hold a narrow majority in the chamber. At least one news report says

Bernhardt, nominated in April to serve as deputy to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, is a career natural-resources lawyer in the nation’s Capital who also previously served in several posts at the Interior Department during the George W. Bush administration. As an attorney in private practice for the Denver-based, national law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, he has represented energy, mining and other industries that regularly cause heartburn for the environmental movement.

As expected, members of the movement attended the committee hearing; perhaps less expected was that they reportedly interrupted committee proceedings repeatedly with their shouts of disapproval.

Gardner’s press office put out a statement following today’s vote:

“I’m thrilled David Bernhardt was approved by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to become the next Deputy Secretary of the Interior … As a native Coloradan from Rifle, David has a deep understanding of Western land issues, and I’m confident his expertise and experience will serve the Department well. I look forward to continuing to support his nomination as it is taken up on the Senate floor.”

The press release also noted:

Gardner introduced Bernhardt at his confirmation hearing last month, and Bernhardt has expressed support for Gardner’s proposal to move the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters West. Bernhardt’s nomination is supported by several stakeholder groups in Colorado and across the country, including the Colorado River District, Colorado Water Congress, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable, and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 19, 20173min340

…And Horace Greeley himself, were he still with the living, no doubt would be on board. Gardner’s Washington office in fact sent us media types a press release today identifying those stakeholders (Greeley wasn’t included). All of which probably belongs in our “Cory Gardner” file’s not-surprising-but-still-noteworthy subfolder.

As has been widely reported, the Republican junior senator from Colorado and 3rd Congressional District Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, have introduced legislation to move the federal Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters to the western United States. Gardner was quoted in a press statement from his office explaining the strategy earlier this month :

“Moving BLM’s headquarters West is a common sense solution that Coloradans from across the political spectrum support. … Ninety-nine percent of the nearly 250 million acres of land managed by BLM is West of the Mississippi River, and having the decision-makers present in the communities they impact will lead to better policy. Coloradans want more Colorado common sense from Washington and this proposal accomplishes that goal.”

Gardner is touting Colorado’s own Grand Junction as the potential new HQ, but under the legislation, the agency could move to any of the following states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, or Wyoming. Obviously, the fact that two Colorado lawmakers introduced the bill can’t hurt our state’s prospects.

Today’s press release from Gardner’s people touts the breadth and depth of Coloradans in favor of the idea; the press release includes snippets of their supportive comments, taken from letters (also posted by Gardner’s office) they wrote endorsing the BLM move.

The list of supporters includes the influential West Slope group Club 20, the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Farm Bureau as well as the editorial boards of several of the state’s daily newspapers — and even a casual endorsement from Gov. John Hickenlooper, captured on video in March by the blog Western Wire.



Joey BunchJoey BunchMay 4, 20175min300

A Spanish music broadcaster in Greeley says a Bureau of Land Management plan in the works could deeply affect future Coloradans who use public lands.

The Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan could affect generations of residents and tourists who love the outdoors, contends William Neidig, owner and president of La Familia Broadcasting in Greeley.

He penned an op-ed for the state’s newspapers, and Colorado Politics snagged the first copy. (As it should always.)

Tipton, Lamborn and Polis pass Colorado public lands bills

Neidig contends the importance of making local voices heard in the plan is crucial. The plan will guide every decision on how 658,000 acres of BLM-controlled land and 3.3 million acres of mineral rights from the mountains across the plains will be managed for generations.

The public review is open until Friday, then the BLM will develop a first draft of the plan tentatively the rest of the year. Once that’s done, there will be a 90-day public comment period on the draft. The BLM has already held public hearings across the region.

Neidig is a hunter, camper and 4×4 enthusiast.

“I am a strong believer in a balanced approach to the continued management of these lands in the BLM’s Resource Management Plan revision,” he writes.

“While I enjoy four-wheeling on public lands, certain wild places of critical ecological and economic importance to local communities need to be set aside and protected for wildlife and quiet uses like hunting, hiking and fishing. Future generations need to be able to enjoy the same lands we enjoy. Sportsmen, backpackers and the outdoor industry all benefit from a balanced approach to conservation.”

Neidig said his love of Colorado’s outdoors began before he could walk, on fishing trips with his grandfather in Fairplay.

“That connection to the wild, the openness, the escape from the concrete jungle, it’s one of the most important things we can do to feel human,” he said. “My hunting buddies and I always joke with each other that tourists will pay thousands of dollars to experience just one week in the same wilderness we all enjoy right here in our backyard.”

He argues that there are business impacts associated with the plan, as well, however.

He cites a report by the Outdoor Industry Association that found outdoor recreation in Colorado generates $994 million in state and local taxes and supports 125,000 jobs.

Neidig said those who “flock to Colorado to hike or camp in Cucharas Canyon, or mountain bike in the Gold Belt Region support locally-owned hotels, restaurants, shops, and recreation companies. These locally-owned businesses, and the thousands of jobs they provide to Coloradans, depend on access to the cherished mountain ranges, woodlands, prairies, and streams on public lands.”

Comments on the plan can be e-mailed to ecrmp.comments@blm.gov or faxed to 719-269-8599.

BLM says relevant comments include those on:

  • Issues BLM has not considered or on issues BLM has identified.
  • Additional planning criteria.
  • Information that can be used when developing alternatives.
  • Reasonable alternatives.
  • Information useful as BLM considers impacts of alternatives.
  • Concerns, with reasoning, about resources in the planning area.
  • Concerns, with reasoning, about uses of public lands in the planning area.
  • Specific changes to the landscape or management actions.
  • Questions, with reasonable basis, the accuracy of information in a report already created.

“What we have in Colorado is one of the most unique landscapes in the country and it stimulates economic activity that we rely upon,” Neidig concludes.

“Eroding these protections will permanently damage the places that make Colorado such a great place to live. That is why I would like to see the revised management plan strike a balance among all the uses of public lands including development, conservation, and recreation.”