Rep. Boebert meets with Routt County commissioners for issue-focused discussion
Colorado’s most talked-about politician was in Steamboat Springs on Monday for a meeting with local leaders that saw both local Democratic and Republican parties organize to rally around.
But while county officials expected a large turnout for Rep. Lauren Boebert’s first public meeting with Routt County’s commissioners, both the congresswoman’s supporters and naysayers opted to stay outside the historic Routt County Courthouse, letting the policy-focused discussion happen without interruption.
The meeting between Routt County’s three Democratic commissioners and the state’s most visible Republican has been in the works since shortly after Boebert was elected and it was aimed at moving past the visible layer of partisan rancor to find issues they could work together to address.
“I will come to any table and have the discussions about our communities and what really matters for us,” Boebert said. “There is a lot of rhetoric that goes around it, but we’re all in this position because we want a solution.”
Boebert said she has been meeting with county commissioners and other leaders across the Western Slope in recent weeks, and these meetings sometimes lead to partnering with a county or municipality on a potential policy proposal.
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While no clear solutions to any problems discussed were born of the discussion, Commissioner Tim Corrigan said after the meeting it was a “good example of disagreeing agreeably.”
Water is a significant priority for Boebert, especially as her district continues to experience drought conditions, and she said she believed having better water storage could help ease the impact of drought.
Boebert also sponsors legislation she said will protect the state’s water laws and prevent federal land grabs. Boebert is also a cosponsor on the SHRED Act, which would return ski area fees to the U.S. Forest Service to support recreation management in local forests.
Saying she didn’t want commissioners to be “too happy” with her, Boebert said she opposes President Joe Biden’s 30 by 30 plan, which seeks to protect 30% of the nation’s land and water by 2030.
“(In) Colorado’s 3rd District, 55% of our lands are already federal lands. We do not need the federal government encroaching on more of our lands,” Boebert said. “For me, it is kind of radical to propose to lock up 30% of our lands and water by 2030. That is just right around the corner.”
The plan as introduced would still allow farming, grazing and logging on this land. A poll of Western state voters taken earlier this year found 90% of Coloradans support creating new federal public lands.
Corrigan asked Boebert about climate policy, saying that for a resort community like Steamboat, the prospect of less snow in the winter and smoke-filled summers does not bode well for the area economically.
Boebert pointed to legislation she has proposed to manage forests as something that could help curb greenhouse gas emissions because it ideally would prevent more wildfires. The package picks ideas used on both sides of the aisle, but opponents still say it lacks proper environmental protections.
“People are talking about going green and having electric vehicles and this and that. That’s fantastic,” Boebert said. “But we could also manage our forests and have healthy forests again.”
Corrigan wasn’t convinced, saying that forest fires have been part of the natural cycle since before white settlers came to the valley, and humans are creating the greenhouse gasses that are warming the planet.
“We still need to address the reduction of CO2 going into the atmosphere from man-made sources,” Corrigan said.
In response, Boebert said she would prefer to have more energy production in the United States where there are more environmental regulations in place compared to countries like China that are currently building new coal-fired power plants.
Boebert said she would like to see more development of American natural resources. She said she supports mining for precious metals such as nickel and cobalt, which have become integral to today’s technology, and elements like uranium for nuclear energy production.
“I don’t think there is anyone who produces energy better than we do in the United States,” Boebert said.
When commissioners broached the local child care and housing crises, Boebert said the transition away from fossil fuels is partly to blame because it has led to a decline in the well-paying jobs these mines and plants offered.
“Those were high-paying jobs where mom could stay home if she wanted to,” Boebert said. “I was able to stay home with three of my boys because my husband was drilling for natural gas, and it was a good-paying job, using American resources.”
Commissioner Beth Melton pushed Boebert to support legislation that would help build more child care capacity, decrease costs for families and increase wages for child care workers.
“This is a sector of the economy that needs to work,” Melton said. “It needs to work so that parents can have care for their children so they can go to work.”
Boebert pointed to added unemployment benefits as a reason for why providers in child care and employers in other industries are struggling to find staff.
But while not everyone in the community is fully on board with shuttering of local power plants, Melton said the transition is happening. When these plants close, Melton said she expects to see a drop in wages in Routt County.
“This is a business decision for Xcel (Energy Colorado) in terms of what they are going to do, and the impact we’re going to have is pretty minimal,” Melton said.
Melton is the vice chair of Colorado’s Just Transition Advisory Committee, and she said Boebert could help when it comes to leveraging money from the federal government to support families in these communities.
“I am certainly here to listen, and if there is something that’s available, we can look into it.” Boebert said. “But at some point we can’t just push out what’s our economic driver and then expect us to be able to afford what we do.”
Corrigan also asked Boebert to support the bipartisan infrastructure package that was passed last week that could help provide funding for the town of Oak Creek as it looks for funding to repair Sheriff’s Reservoir, its water supply.
“I understand that you’re not fond of some of the spending provisions of that bill, but I want you to reflect upon the needs of these tiny communities that really don’t have any other source for help along those lines,” Corrigan said.
Boebert said she disagrees with about 80% of the bipartisan bill and instead has her own smaller package that would utilize money passed for pandemic relief. As is, she said she could not support the bill, especially after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it would not pass the House without a larger package passed entirely on the votes of Democrats in the Senate.
“As is, I cannot see myself supporting that infrastructure bill,” Boebert said. “I’m not coming at this with just a rubber stamp. No, I am offering a counter solution, and I would love to see that part of the conversation.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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