Joey BunchJoey BunchJanuary 5, 20182min975

Seasoned Colorado politico Maria Handley will lead Conservation Colorado while the search continues for ta permanent executive director, the state’s largest and highest profile environmental organization tells Colorado Politics.

Most immediately, Handley was the executive director of Generation Latino, but she’s familiar in Colorado political circles after 15 years working on campaigns, including those for former U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar and for presidential candidate Howard Dean.

Pete Maysmith announced in September he was stepping down from Conservation Colorado to be the senior vice president of campaigns for the national League of Conservation Voters.

“Conservation Colorado helped achieve many important victories over the last several years, and we don’t want to lose momentum during this all-important year for Coloradans as the Trump administration attacks critical protections for our environment and public health,” said Diane Carman, who chairs the boards of Conservation Colorado and Conservation Colorado Education Fund.

The board also announced that Jace Woodrum will be the organization’s communications director, succeeding Jessica Goad, who is now Conservation Colorado’s deputy executive director

Woodrum has more than a decade in communications, working as a spokesman for the Gill Foundation and One Colorado.


Joey BunchJoey BunchNovember 10, 20175min1102

Conservation Colorado is this juggernaut green organization that gives state and national candidates the heebie-jeebies in the West’s political wilds. Last year, 54 of the 60 candidates it endorsed went on to win.

And whenever legislation affecting the environment, large or small, is debated at the Capitol in Denver, Conservation Colorado is there in big ways and small.

But this year Conservation Colorado made its first municipal-level endorsements in Aurora Wards I and II.

Michal Rosenoer, the organization’s Front Range field manager, and her organization also helped campaign for Crystal Murillo and Nicole Johnston, too.

“This election is also an important triumph of progressive values and people-power over oil and gas-backed interests,” Rosenoer said. “Despite industry front group Vital for Colorado investing hundreds of thousands of dollars on these and other local races at the eleventh hour, voters ultimately picked candidates who pledged to stand up for our right to clean air, open spaces, and healthy communities.”

She also said, “Crystal and Nicole will bring a much-needed focus on diversity and inclusivity to the Aurora City Council, and will be champions on issues including oil and gas, transportation, growth, and social and environmental justice.”

The day after the election, however, Rosenoer, the Front Range leader, was tweeting about what was going down on the Western Slope the day before the election.

A protest over methane gas in Durango clearly warmed the spirits of the state’s largest environmental organization, which seems to have a lot of fires on a lot of fronts these days. (Donald Trump is good for business, if you make being your business.)

The Durango Herald’s Jonathan Romero reported that about 100 people gathered in a Durango park to raise a ruckus over Trump’s rollback of bipartisan rules passed last year to prevent methane leaks from oil and gas wells on public lands controlled by the Bureau of Land Management.

“Without this rule our county could face terrible health impacts,” Kellie Pettyjohn, a local farmer, told the Herald. “We don’t want this one-year delay. We want this rule in place.”

Based on rules first adopted in Colorado, the BLM methane rule would affect more than 100,000 wells that Romero reports can release up to 180,000 tons of methane annual a year. Moreover that’s methane that could be captured and sold to bring in additional money for schools and other public projects.

Conservation Colorado was all over the local activism.

Lisa Pool, Conservation Colorado’s field organizer for Durango, told us more:

“It was remarkable to see how well the protest was attended and how passionate people were about the subject,” she told Colorado Politics. “Here in Durango we suffer from a cloud of methane pollution, so the issue is visceral for people. They were infuriated not only by the proposed delay, but also by how limited the public is allowed to be engaged by the process. Protestors of all ages were fired up and chanting throughout.”

The organization Thursday announced it’s promoting communications director Jessica Goad to deputy director, where she’ll “work more directly on elections, campaigns, building the team, and helping hire a new executive director.” Pete Maysmith stepped down as the organization’s leader last month to take on a national role with the League of Conservation Voters.


Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 21, 20175min2871

The man who made Conservation Colorado the engine of the state’s environmental movement is pulling out of the station. Pete Maysmith is becoming the senior vice president of campaigns for the national League of Conservation Voters.

Since taking over as executive director of the then-little-known Colorado Conservation Voters in 2009, Maysmith has led the organization to become the largest and most effective environmental organization in the state with 36,000 members.

Colorado Conservation Voters merged with the Colorado Environmental Coalition four years ago to become Conservation Colorado, an organization that enjoys a seat at the table with policymakers working on clean energy, public lands and the first statewide water management plan, among its initiatives.

Conservation Colorado spent $1.3 million on elections last year, winning 90 percent of the races in which it endorsed candidates.

“Pete has been a passionate defender of the landscapes and natural environment for which Colorado is famous, as well as an amazing organizer of the public to make sure these lands are protected,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a statment. “It’s hard to imagine all that he will do at the national level. The quality of our air and water is in good hands.”

Said U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Denver: “Under Pete’s leadership, Colorado has seen many notable conservation victories. We can always use more Colorado commonsense leading the way, and Pete’s knowhow combined with the League of Conservation Voters’ political muscle will help bring the issue of climate change to the forefront.”

Carrie Curtiss, Conservation Colorado’s deputy director, will serve as acting executive director through the end of the year, at which time she’ll leave after 11 years with the organization. Conservation Colorado will perform a national search for an executive director.

“We are so proud of Pete and the wisdom, tenacity and endless energy he has brought to Conservation Colorado,” Diane Carman, chairwoman of the organization’s board, said in a statement. “The fact that our national partner has recruited him speaks volumes about the power and success of this organization. Conservation Colorado is strong, healthy, and will work harder than ever to pass visionary environmental policies and elect pro-conservation candidates in 2018. We wish Pete the best and look forward to working with him in his new role.”

Maysmith has been on the League of Conservation Voters board since 2015, doing electoral work with its Political and Campaign Committee. He’ll step down from that role to work for the league full-time.

“In the new reality that is the Trump administration, now more than ever we need to build our organizing and political power to ensure that our elected officials represent our values,” Maysmith stated. “I’m thrilled to take on the challenge of building the conservation movement nationally and in other states, and together we will fight the forces that seek to pollute our air and water and undermine our right to a healthy environment. I am certain that the organization is in good hands, and I will be cheering them over the coming months and years.”

Maysmith will be based in Colorado.

He will oversee the League of Conservation Voters’ federal and state independent electoral programs, as well as grassroots organizing and advocacy around issues.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Pete onboard as staff after serving a key role on our board and as a state leader,” Gene Karpinski, the president of the League of Conservation voters said. “Pete brings a record of success that will help us channel the energy the public is feeling right now to stand up to the most anti-environmental president in history and elect real environmental champions up and down the ballot in 2017, 2018 and beyond.”

In a statement released by the league, Maysmith said, “The need to have leaders in Washington and the states who will fight for our clean water, clean air, clean energy and public lands is clearer than ever before, and LCV’s two million members and state partners in 28 states stand ready to take back pro-environment majorities.”

Ernest LuningErnest LuningJuly 11, 20179min1624

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Tuesday signed an executive order committing Colorado to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with a global climate agreement rejected last month by President Donald Trump. Hickenlooper said the state is joining the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition of 13 states and Puerto Rico committed to adhering to the goals set by the Paris climate accord.

Joey BunchJoey BunchMay 15, 20176min333

From the time she entered the legislature in 2015, state Sen. Kerry Donovan saw the discussion of public lands creeping out to the extreme. And appreciating the peace, beauty and economic necessity is anything but an extreme Colorado view, said the lawmaker for the heart of the state’s central mountains.

“Public Lands Day was an attempt to bring a positive message to that — to play offense rather than defense,” Donovan told Colorado Politics in the dome of the state Capitol last week

Last year the Democrat and rancher passed what at first looked like a long-shot bill: to create the country’s first statewide Public Lands Day. That happens at more than 100 locations across the state next Saturday, with the help of Conservation Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, the folk fusion band Elephant Revival, 18 brew pubs and a host of sponsors.

Colorado Politics told you about many of the events last week, but you can find out the latest on Conservation Colorado’s website for the day.

Just as you can see Long’s Peak from vantages hundreds of miles apart, Coloradans see public lands the same way.

Donovan was able to pass the measure because Republican Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling let it out of the committee he chaired, but then voted against it on the floor.

The measure passed the Senate 28-7 and the House 39-26 to hold the observance on the third Saturday in May each year.

Sonnenberg’s reason wasn’t to encourage to go hug trees but to go see what a bad job the federal government does at managing forests and other public property. He and other leading statehouse Republicans would like to see more management authority returned to the states, and especially to local communities.

But to folks like Pete Maysmith, the chief of Conservation Colorado, that sounds like making public lands private to engage in more drilling and development.

Since Public Lands Day passed last year, Colorado’s conservation and outdoor recreation community has watched Utah fight over public lands.

A major outdoor retail show is leaving Salt Lake City because of Utah Republicans’ push to move the federal government out of its public lands issues.

Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz introduced a bill to sell off 3 million acres of federal lands, including tracts in Colorado, in January, before yanking the legislation in the backlash.

The GOP pushback amped up after President Obama set aside 1.35 million acres in southeast Utah the Bears Ears National Monument in December. President Trump has ordered a review of all monuments designated over the last 21 years that are more than 100,000 acres.

In Colorado, that puts the Canyons of the Ancients near Cortez in jeopardy.

“The national politics have changed, certainly since the election in November,” Maysmith said. “When we see things like national monuments, the Canyons of the Ancients and others here in Colorado and nationally, that are potentially at risk of being rolled back or undone that doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Republicans, however, say Democrats are overstating the case, that no one is going to harm the most treasured public lands. But by being over-protective against the responsible use of federal lands — much as it goes on now with mineral leases and private ski resorts in national forests — the left blocks revenue that could help better care for public lands. They also block jobs and taxes for local communities.

They point to the massive pine beetle infestation in Colorado, to which the federal government didn’t respond quickly or adequately enough. State and local control, with adequate resources from economic activity, would be a better way to manage them.

President Trump has ordered deep budget cuts for those very agencies.

Public Lands Day is an opportunity for both sides to have that discussion, or reflect on the issues, while enjoying Colorado’s great outdoors.

Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirMay 10, 20178min541

Colorado environmentalists cheered the nation’s Senate but jeered one of its members, Colorado Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, for their votes today regarding a proposed repeal of new curbs on methane emissions from oil and gas wells. Just reverse the order of those cheers and jeers, of course, to get the take of supporters of the state’s substantial oil and gas industry.

The U.S. Senate’s minority Democrats voted against the repeal, scuttling the proposal with the help of three maverick Republicans who broke from the GOP majority. Gardner, on the other hand, voted with the other 48 Republicans. The proposal was part of the GOP’s, and the Trump administration’s, agenda for easing what they contend is an excessive regulatory burden on energy development.

The Senate’s vote represented the first setback for that agenda since the new Congress was seated and Donald Trump was sworn in last January. And it ran counter to a vote in favor of repeal earlier this year by the GOP-majority U.S. House.

While the vote’s outcome caught Beltway observers off-guard, the reaction in Colorado was pretty much as expected. From a press release issued by green movement mainstay Conservation Colorado, here’s the group’s Pete Maysmith:

This is an incredible day for the environment and for citizens across the country who have been telling their members of Congress to vote for clean air. The vote should have been an easy one for the oil and gas lobby to win, but the power of citizen activism has broken through the political morass.

With that said, we are deeply disappointed in Senator Gardner’s vote. Despite more than 10,000 emails and calls from Coloradans and multiple protests at his offices on this issue, Senator Gardner managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by voting against Colorado’s clean air in what amounted to a futile vote for him.

The Denver-based, libertarian-leaning Independence Institute’s Executive V.P. Amy Oliver Cooke, who heads the institute’s Energy Policy Center, saw it the other way around:

What a disappointment that the U.S. Senate voted with the onerous regulatory state and against jobs, the economy and domestic energy production. At least, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner didn’t fall for the cynical either-or choice. Instead, he voted with the American people, who know that we can responsibly develop our own resources and keep the environment clean.

The rules, published by the federal government under the Obama administration just last November, would require oil and gas operations to capture methane they leak or vent. Environmentalists say that will rein in gases that contribute to climate change and that the escaped gas amounts to hundred of millions of dollars in lost mineral royalties that could support local governments.

The industry, however, maintains the new rules will backfire. As reported by’s Joey Bunch earlier in the congressional debate, the Colorado Petroleum Council, a division of the American Petroleum Institute, says the cost of compliance could shut down 40 percent of wells on federal lands, cutting much deeper into government royalties than any gain from recaptured methane. A 1 percent loss could cut payments to the government by $14 million. The lost royalties to flaring are estimated at between $3 million and $10 million, according to the Petroleum Council.

How did Colorado’s two U.S. senators themselves feel about their votes?

The office of senior Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, who sided with other Democrats against the repeal, issued a statement quoting the senator on the vote:

“Today’s vote is a victory for Colorado and the country … Amid dysfunction in Washington, we were able to come together to prevent the rollback of a rule that protects families from harmful air pollution and ensures taxpayers receive a fair return on oil and gas resources. This win gives me some hope that Congress can make progress on addressing climate change and growing our clean energy economy in the future.”

As for Gardner — the man in the crosshairs of Environment Colorado and a host of other left-of-center Colorado groups at the moment — a spokesman for his office stressed that the vote was actually procedural, to continue debate on the repeal. The office released this statement from Gardner:

“The Senate rejected a procedural measure today to advance debate of the CRA involving the methane rule, and the Senate will not consider repealing the rule implemented by the Obama Administration. Colorado has one of the strictest regulations on methane emissions in the country. Our state is an example of what can be achieved when states work to find answers that best fit the needs of local interests, and the Colorado way will continue to be the standard.”

Make no mistake, Democrats as well as nonpartisan groups like Conservation Colorado that lean Democratic, are not about to let up the heat on Gardner — whatever issue happens to be in play. Some of Maysmith’s remarks in today’s press release come across  more like campaign talking points than an environmental manifesto:

It’s obvious from this vote that Senator Gardner is much more interested in joining the Washington, D.C. political club rather than representing the values of Coloradans. This is not the leadership that Colorado needs, and we will double down on our efforts to make sure that Coloradans of all stripes know what a threat Senator Gardner’s voting record poses to clean air and environment.

Joey BunchJoey BunchFebruary 15, 20174min334
We told you last week that Utah is shaking in its hiking boots that Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is trying to lure away the twice annual Outdoor Retailer trade show from Utah. Now Conservation Colorado has his back. It seems some of the industry titans who produce outdoor gear aren’t crazy about the way some […]

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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusJanuary 24, 20173min305
Reaction in Colorado to President Donald Trump’s decision Tuesday to revive the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines fell predictably along partisan lines, with environmental interests assailing the bold decision while Republicans hailed the new commander in chief. The executive order on the Dakota Access pipeline directs the Army Corps of Engineers to “review and approve […]

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