MONTROSE – Leaders in Montrose, including the Montrose County Commissioners and the Montrose City Council, aim to put their foot down to stop “overreaching” government regulation stemming from environmental and sustainable development movements that they say are eroding the American way of life.
That notion was the subject of a lengthy joint work session between the two entities on Thursday, Feb. 7. While there were no formal decisions made at the work session it was generally agreed upon that they would work together to fight federal regulations that they see as infringing on the rights of Americans.
On the agenda for the meeting were “big picture” discussions on the topics of regional land use, the influence of international agreements, Environmental Protection Agency regulations, and regional tourism promotion. For the most part, one discussion topic lead into another, all of them stemming from the same concerns from those sitting at the table: government regulations that go too far and are prohibiting viable uses of public lands in the region.
Commissioner Ron Henderson told the city councilors that the county would like their help in promoting the use of public lands not only for recreation and tourism but for timber harvesting, mineral extraction, natural gas extraction, resource development, rare earths mining, uranium mining and anything that could benefit the community members and taxpayers.
“We need to be mindful and honored that we have those possibilities in this county,” Henderson said.
Part of that, Henderson and Commissioner Gary Ellis said, was defending Revised Statute 2477, which was enacted in 1866, to provide right-of-way construction of access roads across public lands.
“We really feel like the federal government has overstepped their boundaries with new wilderness actions,” Gary Ellis said. “They take more land out of public use as far as access goes. One of the main issues is developing strategies to defend access to public lands. This really does tie in nicely with the Agenda 21 discussion because it’s an agenda of taking more public lands out of public use. We have to do what we can to defend accesses and uses of these public lands.”
Earlier this month, the commissioners approved a resolution rejecting Agenda 21 and any sustainable land use policies related to it. Agenda 21 is a non-binding sustainable development action plan produced in 1992 at a United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro. While Agenda 21 is not binding and does not require, force or mandate that a country follow its guidelines, the commissioners along with other conservative leaders around the country believe it is having an effect on the rights of citizens.
“The issue we have from our perspective is its insidious on what it tries to do in denying public access and using the environment to urbanize America,” Gary Ellis said. “It removes our sovereignty as a nation and turns us into more of a global nation. It’s contrary to our American way of life.”
Gary Ellis went on to say that some people think Agenda 21 is “nothing but a fairytale” but he sees it as encroaching on us. Henderson agreed.
“I would add that whether or not you make an argument that Agenda 21 is a farce and has no teeth, I offer for your thought the number of acres of land taken out of public use for wilderness designation…I would say they are kicking our butts with it. They are kicking our fannies all over the map. They are taking our rights and our freedom.”
At that point, someone asked Henderson who “they” was?
“The government,” Henderson said.
New County Manager Rick Eckert, who has worked in Alaska, said he has seen firsthand how the federal government can infringe on the rights of citizens through environmental concerns.
“It’s happening in the West End with the [Gunnison] sage grouse issue,” Eckert said, of the bird that could soon be listed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife as an endangered species. “With the sage grouse issue, it will actually encroach onto private property. A person’s private property value will not just go down, it will be gone because there’s a stupid bird out there that may or may not have been out there for years. If you have a sage grouse on private property and they find a nest, suddenly you can’t do anything to disturb that nest. At what point does it stop? We are at a critical time right now in governmental overreach.”
Councilor Kathy Ellis suggested that the government change the designation of public lands.
“It is an oxymoron,” Kathy Ellis said. “We talk about public lands but the public is not going onto public lands.”
Commissioner David White suggested that Agenda 21 isn’t the only sustainable movement to blame. The Kyoto Protocol, a plan drafted in 1997 to set binding emission reduction targets to combat climate change, is also to blame despite the fact that the United States did not sign the agreement.
“It goes on and on and on and we see this on a daily basis,” White said. “It’s an ongoing attack. It is not reported in the news media and when you start piecing it all together it begins to make sense that something is going on.”
For the most part, Mayor Thomas Smits and Mayor Pro Tem Judy Ann Files were silent during the discussion. Both councilors Bob Nicholson and Carol McDermott expressed some concern that balance needs to be brought to the use of public lands in the region.
“I am of the opinion that we need to balance things here in Colorado,” McDermott said. “I treasure the fact that we have multiple use on our lands. I see it as a bigger picture to it and we need to take things one step at a time. We have a revolution scheduled every two years.”
“I do feel that there are some genuine issues occurring that we need to be mindful and careful of,” Nicholson said, adding that he is concerned about the loss of private property rights. “I would certainly like to see us, as a council, support [county] resolutions.”