Public Lands Shenanigans: Why Play These Games At All?

Rep. Scott Tipton (R).

The Aspen Daily News’ Todd Hartley follows up on a story we’ve been watching for some days now, growing controversy over a “public lands” bill from Republican Rep. Scott Tipton and backed by Sen. Cory Gardner introduced in direct competition with the CORE Act–legislation Colorado Democrats are hoping to get bipartisan consensus on in order to move any kind of public lands protection bill forward in the current divided Congress.

As Hartley reports, Tipton is responding to the blowback with vague promises to revisit a major difference in the two bills pertaining to the Thompson Divide area, additional protections for which was “left out” of the Republican version:

“The congressman is interested and plans to have those conversations regarding Thompson Divide,” said Matt Atwood, Tipton’s communications director. “That’s part of the reason we left it out, because it is a ‘discussion draft,’ and we want to get all sides of the story before we introduce the full bill.”

That’s better than nothing, we guess, but it sidesteps the larger problem: why run two bills at all?

The prospect of having Thompson Divide protections included in an amended draft of the bill is welcomed by leaders of local conservation groups, but they still expressed skepticism about the underlying motivation behind the REC Act and the exclusion of the divide in the first place…

“We believe that the CORE Act is a well-crafted, well-vetted compromise that is the result of a decade of consensus and stakeholder engagement, and it has really broad community support,” said Julia Morton, interim executive director of the Thompson Divide Coalition. “We believe the solution that has been crafted in the CORE Act is a really fair and good one, and so I think our preference is, obviously, for Tipton to support the CORE Act.” [Pols emphasis]

Not surprisingly, it’s a sentiment echoed by Bennet and his staff.

“The CORE Act is the result of Coloradans working together to hammer out compromises and develop proposals that have widespread local support, including in places such as the Thompson Divide,” said Courtney Gidner, a spokesperson for Bennet. “Our focus is on advancing each of the four components of the CORE Act together. Any contribution that leads us to accomplish these goals is welcome, and we hope Congressman Tipton will join this effort.”

The problem, as we’ve outlined in previous posts, is straightforward. In a divided Congress, the only public lands protection bills that have any realistic chance of passage are bills that enjoy enough bipartisan support to survive the Democratic-controlled House and GOP-controlled Senate to arrive on the President’s desk. If Democrats have a bill and Republicans introduce competing legislation instead of working out their differences with Democrats, the most likely outcome is that no legislation at all passes. That’s why supporters of the CORE Act, the product of years of study and negotiation, were blindsided by Tipton’s introduction of the “REC Act” to accomplish many of the same goals but with certain key differences–in the case of Thompson Divide, taking a side by omission in a long-running fight over protecting a vast natural area from oil and gas drilling.

What happens next? We’ll have to wait. There’s always a chance of a resolution that’s acceptable to all parties, which would take this issue off the table politically ahead of a pivotal general election next year. But if the more likely outcome of no bill at all prevails, Scott Tipton’s bad faith is going to be plain for all CD-3 voters to see.

6 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. unnamed says:

    So, Tipton and Gardner's bill continues to go over like a Lead Zeppelin.  But for them, the Song Remains the Same.

  2. gertie97 says:

    Why? To make their O&G overlords happy. It won't hurt Tipton in the 3rd and Gardner needs the industry money for what little chance he has of winning

  3. JohnInDenver says:

    And should you doubt the wonderfulness of the Republican vision for public lands….  The Hill: 'Latest appointee overseeing federal public lands once advocated to sell them'

    Interior Secretary David Bernhardt quietly signed a secretarial order Monday that effectively made [William Perry]  Pendley acting director of BLM. 

    The staffing shake up came after Pendley was unceremoniously moved to the post of Deputy Director of BLM Policy and Programs last week, among the agency’s highest positions.

    News of the move was largely determined through a change to BLM’s organization chart posted to its website. Interior has not returned calls for comment.

    Bernhardt’s secretarial order Monday called for a “temporary redelegation of authority for certain vacant non-career senate-confirmed positions.” 

  4. mamajama55 says:

    Why? Simply profit. Plenty of money to be made extracting fossil fuels and minerals from public lands.

    Why deceive the public to make them think that grabbing the Thompson Divide with theirW(rec)K Act is the same as the Democrats’ conservation-minded CORE Act? Why try to create a parallel reality to replace the facts on the ground?

    That gaslighting strategy goes back to two evil geniuses of the Republican Party – Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove. 

    Rove infamously said that …”We create our own reality…and while you’re studying that, …we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study, too…”

    Gingrich said that the Republican strategy should be a long term one to “Replace the left.” We’ve seen that many times in the last few years- replace the ACA with the AHCA or Trumpcare, replace the House’s good humanitarian border aid bill with more unaccountable funds for private prisons in the Senate bill, etc. Cory Gardner wants to replace access to doctor-monitored abortion with OTC prescriptions, a boon for Big Pharma and a health risk for women. 

    So replacing a real public lands bill with a public lands confiscation bill is just more of the same.

    However, people are waking up… grassroots citizen groups can be organized and mobilized to protest overnight and information can be shared worldwide in moments. Progressive and diverse congress members are rocking the boat.  So the staid, courteous, slow to react “old left” Dems that Gingrich and Rove baffled with BS are being replaced with new, quick to react, well informed and diverse “new left” in Congress and elsewhere.  

    The trend is clear for those willing to see it.



    • Duke Cox says:

      Agree. This bullshit is SOP for the GOP.

      I would like to make sure, though, that whenever the malodorous pair of Gingrich and Rove are considered for their nefarious role in American politics, we do not forget to include the slimeball who was their wordsmith….Frank Luntz.

      He now passes himself off as a pollster and political analyst. He is a liar.

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