Category Archives: environment

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.

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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.

Colorado Conservation Voters grade Ritter

Since 1997 the conservation community has issued a legislative scorecard that shows how lawmakers voted on the most important environmental issues of the year. In 2005, Colorado Conservation Voters began issuing a gubernatorial report card that looks at legislation, executive action, and overall leadership when it comes to protecting our environment. What we hope to achieve with these accountability reports is a fair assessment of how our
elected leaders do when it comes to protecting Colorado’s natural resources.
Our goal is to reward leadership taken, and to point out where more is needed.
It will come as a surprise to few that Governor Ritter received high marks from
the conservation community for his first year in office. In fact, the start of the
Ritter Administration marks a sea of change in how conservation issues are
addressed at the executive level in Colorado. Bill Ritter put the New Energy
Economy and wise stewardship of our natural resources front and center in his
campaign for governor. What was refreshing for those who have grown tired of
politicians making bold promises on the campaign trail but falling short when
it comes to governing, is that Gov. Ritter began delivering on these promises
within weeks of coming into office.
While Gov. Ritter starts his administration with a strong grade point average, he did not receive straight A’s this year. His recent comments on the Roan Plateau were an improvement from the plan developed by the Bureau of Land Management, but did not draw the clear line that conservationists, sportsmen, and local elected officials had hoped for regarding protection of this unique and treasured area.
And, while Gov. Ritter is off to a strong start, much work remains to be done.
Two challenges stand out as the most urgent. The first is global warming.
Nobel laureate scientists, many working here in Colorado, have declared that
“warming of the climate system is unequivocal” – fighting words for scientists.
Urgent action is needed at all levels of government, and Colorado should be at
the forefront of this effort. Gov. Ritter’s Climate Action Plan is a good start, but
much of the hard work remains to be done. The secondarea where urgent
action is needed is around the management of oil and gas development in
Colorado. Oil and gas drilling is already reshaping our landscape, and state
experts forecast that 150,000 wells will be drilled in Colorado over the coming three decades. Gov. Ritter has a critical role to play in our work for permanent protection of some truly unique areas. His administration will also set the direction for day-to-day decisions that will determine how we minimize the lasting impacts of drilling on our communities and wildlife.

New Energy Economy A+
Gov. Ritter is serious not only about his commitment to building the New Energy
Economy here at home, but also about the role Colorado can play in moving
our nation towards a more secure future. From small ranching communities on the
Western Slope, to the halls of Congress, Gov. Ritter has laid out his vision and
continues to make the case for economic prosperityand environmental stewardship
throughinvestment in a clean, renewable future. Gov. Ritter has also been
thoughtful about the team he has assembled, appointing several strong
cabinet members and policy advisors with a tremendous depth of knowledge
on clean energy policy.

As a candidate, Bill Ritter promised to create a New Energy Economy in
Colorado “through strong leadership, responsible investment and a clear
vision for the future.”
In his first year as governor, Bill Ritter swiftly delivered.
Gov. Ritter’s top 2007 legislative priority was a measure requiring that 20% of
Colorado’s electricity come from clean, renewable energy sources by 2020.
Governor Ritter’s success in bringing a diverse set of interests to the table, and
ultimately winning the support of long-time renewable opponents such as the
rural electric associations, was crucial to this landmark victory.
Gov. Ritter also stepped up where his predecessor had previously failed;
signing a proposal to widely expand energy efficiency programs for both
electricity and natural gas customers.
Experts estimate that this legislation will cut the growth in new demand
for electricity in half by 2020.
Gov. Ritter issued the Greening State Government Executive Order, ensuring
the state leads the way with strong efficiency improvements. Ritter set strong goals for the reduction of energy consumption in state buildings and vehicles, and called for a 75% reduction
of solid waste.

Balanced Oil and Gas Development A

The number of permits to drill for oil
and gas has increased by 280% over the
past five years. This increased drilling
has resulted in more fragmented wild-
life habitat and increased concerns about
water and air quality. Gov. Ritter lead a
call for more balanced oil and gas devel-
opment during his first year in office.
Gov. Ritter displayed bold leadership
when his administration introduced
landmark legislation to reform the
Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation
Commission. This body is responsible
for determining how drilling operations
occur in Colorado, and, until this year,
had been stacked with oil and gas
industry representatives. Thanks to
Gov. Ritter’s desire to create greater
balance in how oil and gas drilling
occurs, the Commission now includes
experts on public health, wildlife and
the environment in addition to other
important stakeholders. The governor
also signed a measure to give property
owners more rights when drilling occurs
on their land and a measure to use best
management practices for protecting
wildlife habitat against the most harmful
impacts of oil and gas drilling.
The governor has made strong
appointments to the Oil and Gas
Commission. This new commission has
embarked on a critical process that will
create new rules to protect wildlife
habitat and public health. Gov. Ritter
has also appointed leaders to the state
Wildlife Commission with expertise
when it comes to minimizing impacts
of oil and gas development on critical
wildlife habitat. Finally, the Division
of Wildlife has also taken a stronger
stance on behalf of big game and
sage grouse protections in the face
of expanded oil and gas drilling.

The conservation community, landowners,
sportsmen, and local communities have
fought to bring balance to the Colorado
Oil and Gas Conservation Commission for
seventeen years. Gov. Ritter’s leadership
was the difference that made this a reality
in 2007. Enacting strong rules to imple-
ment the letter and the spirit of these
new laws will be a test for the governor’s
leadership in 2008.

Water A-
Ensuring adequate water supplies for
growing communities while protecting
our rivers and streams is one of the
biggest policy challenges in Colorado.
Acknowledging that changing a water
right from one use to another can
result in diminished water quality in
our rivers, Gov. Ritter signed a measure
allowing water courts to protect water
quality. This legislation, which had
failed during seven previous legislative
sessions, is especially valuable in light
of the increasing number of agricul-
tural water rights being converted to
municipal use.
Gov. Ritter signed another measure
to increase the fees industry pays to
the state for water quality programs,
for the state to fund water quality
The governor also supported an expan-
sion of the grants to communities to
create and implement water efficiency
plans. Gov. Ritter and the Department of
Natural Resources demonstrated their
commitment to local water conservation
efforts by making adjustments to free up
the necessary dollars for the program.
The governor has made several strong
appointments to state agencies, boards
and commissions with jurisdiction over
water issues. As additional vacancies on
water boards and commissions occur,
the conservation community encourages
Gov. Ritter to appoint individuals who
will make decisions with the health of
During the campaign, Bill Ritter
embraced the concepts in “Facing Our
Future,” the conservation community’s
blueprint for meeting the water demands
of Colorado’s growing population without
further damaging the state’s already
stressed rivers. Some Front Range
developers and water providers continue
to promote old ideas to divert additional
water from the West Slope to the Front
Range. The time is ripe for Gov. Ritter to
articulate a vision for meeting Colorado’s
growing water needs while protecting and
restoring the state’s rivers and streams.
Strengthening and promoting the state’s
instream flow program is another
important area in 2008.