Candidates for House District 26 differ over public land policy |

Candidates for House District 26 differ over public land policy

Candidates differ over public land issues

Colorado House District 26 candidates, Republican challenger Michael Cacioppo, left, and incumbent Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush, right, exchange cordial greetings prior to responding to questions from the members of the Steamboat Springs Kiwanis Club Oct. 4.
Tom Ross

— The candidates for Colorado House District 26, comprising Routt and Eagle counties, clashed significantly over management of federal lands in the region as they faced one another in an Oct. 4 candidates forum hosted by the Steamboat Kiwanis Club.

Incumbent Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush, Steamboat Springs, took the position that it is not the role of the state, nor is the state equipped to assume management of the large tracts of land in the West managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.

Her Republican challenger, newspaper publisher and businessman Michael Cacioppo, of Avon, countered that residents of the district have the intelligence required to manage public lands here, and that it’s unreasonable to require them to travel to the nation’s capital to advocate for changes in land management policies.

Kiwanis member Theo Dexter asked, “regarding the transfer of federal lands to the state of Colorado, would you vote to start the process?”

“I have opposed transfer for many reasons,” Mitsch Bush said. “First, the state of Colorado does not have the resources to manage the public lands … Remember, these lands are owned by all Americans. It’s owned by everyone in the country.”

She added that the residents of her district have ample opportunities to influence public lands policy locally through direct access to district forest rangers in their communities, and with the ability to comment on new land management issues, on the Internet or in writing.

Cacioppo emphasized that the Forest Service works for the people.

“The bottom line is we want to be able to control the open space and land controlled by the federal government,” he said. “Are we not smart enough to be good stewards of that land? I think we are. I know we are. Part of their platform is always to raise our cost of living and that’s the result of this type of thinking. We’ve got to change that, and we can.”

In response to a question from former Routt County Commissioner Dennis Fisher, asking the candidates to describe some of the issues facing District 26, Cacioppo cited his record of standing up for clean water, which he said includes putting his own finances at risk along with others to file a lawsuit that led to the clean up of pollution in the Eagle River.

On the community housing forefront, Cacioppo endorses a plan by Routt County resident Frank Dolman to build as many as 400 tiny homes, from 100 to 500 square feet, spread out among Clark, Hayden, Oak Creek, Milner and Steamboat Springs with no income limits and no appreciation caps.

She said she advocated for community housing in her former longtime roles as both a county commissioner and county planning commissioner. She said she has voted to renew the state’s low income housing tax credit and supported a bi-partisan bill to establish a first-time homebuyer savings account.

On the subject of water supply, Mitsch Bush said she engaged the governor’s office in order to amend a bill pushed by Front Range interests to ensure it wouldn’t make it easier to divert West Slope water.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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