Monthly Archives: August 2014

Ritter’s clean air program chugs along

High Country Honda owner David McDavid could have made a cool grand or so if he had resold a 1998 Chevy Blazer that one of his customers recently traded in for a new vehicle.

Instead, he donated the still-working vehicle to the Clear the Air Foundation of Colorado, recognizing that, with 200,000-plus miles on the odometer, it had seen better days and is far less efficient than today’s new cars and trucks.

More and more, McDavid and other auto dealers in Glenwood Springs and across Colorado are turning the keys of older trade-ins over to the foundation, helping meet its goal to reduce polluting auto emissions by taking old or inadequately maintained vehicles off the road.

“We don’t want to be mistaken for attempting to take classic cars off the road, that’s not what we’re about,” said George Billings, program coordinator for Clear the Air, who was in Glenwood Springs last week along with Colorado Automobile Dealers Association (CADA) President Tim Jackson arranging to collect the latest dealer donations.

Instead, the organization targets 15- to 20-year-old vehicles that may not have been kept in the best of condition, and for which it would not be cost effective to get them running properly again, Billings said.

“We’re targeting the old polluters that are still out there on the road,” he said. “And what better way to target these high pollution emitters than to work with the dealers who often end up with them?”

Clear the Air was founded in 2007 with seed money from the CADA in response to then-Gov. Bill Ritter’s push to have Colorado adopt something similar to California’s stringent auto emission regulations.

More here: http://www.postindependent.com/news/grandjunction/12425849-113/clear-vehicles-dealers-program

Ritter argues Browns Canyon should be protected as Nat’l Monument

Browns Canyon should be protected as a national monument now

By Bill Ritter Jr.
Guest Commentary

Last month, 100 eager faces gathered amid the sound and spray of the swollen Arkansas River for a crash course in history, ecology and customer relations. Colorado’s newest crop of river guides had gathered in Salida to learn about Browns Canyon, which will be their home for the next several months as they lead visitors through the whitewater of one of Colorado’s most iconic and popular landscapes.

Browns Canyon is both an economic driver and a pillar of life in the upper Arkansas Valley. The values that attracted these guides – and that will draw tens of thousands of visitors this summer – are what make Browns Canyon a jewel worthy of preservation as a national monument.

The river valley and surrounding mountains provide ideal habitat for a variety of species: peregrine falcons, golden eagles, elk, bighorn sheep, bobcats, to name a few. Hikers, hunters and anglers treasure this quiet and rugged landscape and the unique experiences it offers. The 100-mile section of the Arkansas River that includes Browns Canyon was recently designated as Colorado’s longest stretch of Gold Medal Trout Water, sustaining some of the state’s most productive fishing and attracting more than 100,000 anglers a year.

And it’s no secret that Browns Canyon is one of the most popular whitewater rafting destinations in the U.S. Beginning in June, and for the next few months, more than 200,000 visitors will paddle down the Arkansas River, generating more than $55 million in revenue.

Over the years, there have been a variety of community-driven efforts to safeguard the future of this pristine place. In 2005, legislation to protect Browns Canyon was introduced by Congressman Joel Hefley and Sen. Wayne Allard, both Republicans. The companion bills, which ultimately were derailed by special interests, had the support of more than 100 local businesses, not to mention Colorado’s entire congressional delegation.

The latest legislative proposal, carried by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, reflects this same broad, bipartisan and community-driven approach. In fact, his bill to set aside the canyon and 22,000 acres of adjacent public land as a national monument is the result of 18 months of meetings, public-comment sessions and written input from Chaffee County leaders, residents, businesses and other stakeholders. This is how public lands designations should be done — and I strongly urge Congressman Doug Lamborn, whose district includes Browns Canyon, and the entire delegation to get behind this grassroots bill.

If other recent national monument designations are any guide, Browns Canyon is a no brainer. For example, consider the recent designations of Point Arena-Stornetta seashore along the rocky northern California coast and 500,000 acres of rugged land in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks of New Mexico. These are valuable additions to our national heritage, protecting for future generations access to land for hunting and outdoor recreation, critical wildlife habitat, and places of cultural and historical significance.

And the public supports a similar designation in Colorado.

In polling conducted last year, two-thirds of voters in nine western states said that protecting public lands for future generations was very important to them. And in Colorado College’s annual “Conservation in the West” poll earlier this year, a stunning 98% of Coloradans said that public lands are an “essential part” of the state’s economy, providing recreation opportunities and enhancing our quality of life.

It’s hard to argue against such sentiment, considering that outdoor recreation supports 125,000 jobs and is responsible for more than $13 billion in spending each year in Colorado. That translates to almost a billion dollars in annual revenue for local and state governments.

Places like Salida and Buena Vista know this already. They recognize the threat that things such as potential mining in Browns Canyon pose to their quality of life. The only guarantee for ensuring that the canyon remains the lifeblood of the upper Arkansas Valley for generations to come is to protect it in perpetuity.

Recognizing Browns Canyon as a national monument is the best way to ensure that its many unique values are safeguarded and remain available to us and our kids far into the future. We should not wait any longer. The time to act is now.

Bill Ritter served as governor of Colorado from 2007-2011. He is currently the director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University.

Old Ritter foe up in race

This year, millions of dollars are being funneled in Colorado where close midterm elections have the potential of making mostly blue Colorado a little more red.

A tight senate race against incumbent Mark Udall (D) and challenger U.S. Rep.Cory Gardner (R) is the focus for many prime donors because of Gardner’s potential to tip the majority currently held in the senate in the Republicans favor. According to their campaign records, Udall collected $13.7 million and Gardner received $5 million, both since June 30.

Gardner is speculated by many as a prime contender against Udall since heannounced he would be vacating his current House seat in Colorado’s 4th district to run for senate. Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, who was initially running for Senate against Udall, stepped down after Gardner’s announcement and is now the Republican Nominee for Gardner’s old seat in the 4th district where he has a substantial chance of winning.

According to a recent poll, the closely-watched senate race is, tied with 44 percent for Gardner and 42 percent for Udall with 10 percent undecided.

Besides the close race in the senate, Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is up for re-election this year against former U.S. Rep Bob Beauprez (R) who previously ran for governor against Gov. Bill Ritter.

According to recent poll numbers, the race is tied with 43 percent for  Hickenlooper and 44 percent for Beauprez. One issue Hickenlooper faces moving forward is a job approval rating that has declined since early this year.

“Coloradans seem generally optimistic about the future and confidant in the state’s economy,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll, told the North Denver News. “But, that is certainly not enough to open the way for a smooth ride to reelection for Gov. John Hickenlooper.”