Saturday, May 16, 2015

Northwestern Colorado counties meet with U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner

Mesa County Commissioner John Justman joined representatives from other counties around Northwestern Colorado for a meeting with U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner today.

Mesa County Administrator Frank Whidden moderated the meeting, from 10 a.m. to noon, at the Mesa County Workforce Center, 512 29 1/2 Road.

Invited were commissioners or other officials from Delta, Eagle, Gunnison, Montrose, Moffat, Pitkin and Rio Blanco Counties.

Each county had about 10 minutes to discuss issues important to their county or the region. The wide-ranging discussion included many important topics. A few trends emerged:

  • Economic development in areas largely composed of federally owned lands and the impact of federal decisions such as resource management plans and travel management plans 
  • Judicial decisions heavily impacting the coal industry and increasing unemployment in rural areas
  • Transportation, especially the I-70 corridor and a possible new east-west route in Colorado 
  • Water rights 
  • The Endangered Species Act and its impact on economic development 
  • Sen. Gardner's efforts to prevent the listing of the Sage Grouse 
Commissioner Justman highlighted issues Mesa County is currently facing, including the request to the Bureau of Land Management to grant an additional six months to respond to the BLM management plans.

He also pointed out that given the large federal land holdings within Mesa County, county officials need the support of federal representatives to deal with issues facing Mesa County and the Western slope such as water rights. Justman expressed concern that some may be making an effort to undermine the senior water rights held in Mesa County.

Sen. Gardner said he is working to implement the Sage Grouse Protection and Conservation Act, as well as working on legislation to permit companies such as Apple to repatriate profits into the United States without facing large income tax liabilities.

The senator also committed to increasing staffing in his offices around the state to improve communication and coordination with local governments.

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