Yesterday afternoon the Mesa County Conservation Forum held their first public forum. According to their promotional materials, their mission is to engage the community in forums that generate fact-based dialogue surrounding conservation issues, foster open and honest discussion and develop a greater respect and collaboration among members of both the public and private sectors.
Maybe because of the time of day and day of week, the attendance did not fill the room at City Hall, but I saw both environmentalists and members of the oil and gas community in the audience. The head table was populated by Colorado’s new director of the newly merged parks and wildlife agencies, the regional director of the BLM, a planner from Mesa County, and Grand Junction’s mayor.
The forum opened with each of the invited speakers delivering an opening statement. Much of the comments centered around how difficult it is to get the job done in an environment of declining revenues, and how local government works with state and federal governments to find ways around funding constraints.
As each person signed in at the door, they were given a printed slip of paper on which to write any question they would like answered by a member of the panel. After the first hour of the meeting, the organizers turned to these questions. The only problem is that the moderator didn’t like the questions, so instead of asking the panel to respond to what he said were 50 questions about the oil and gas industry, he cut the meeting short and invited people to speak with the panelists one-on-one by crowding the stage and/or adjourning to Bin 707 across the street.
Now, why would the moderator refuse to have the panel publicly answer any oil and gas questions? Hmmm. Let’s see who makes up the leadership of the Mesa County Conservation Forum (Note, all biographical information was found by doing a Google search of the individual’s name plus “Grand Junction” :
Tom Burk: Appointed by Governor Hickenlooper to be one of the Republican representatives on the State Board of the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund, is a construction company specializing in industrial properties.
Mac Cunningham: owner of Cunningham Investment Company and Cunningham Brokerage Company, he has been involved in the development of commercial real estate for decades.
Steve Acquafresca: County Commissioner has a background in agriculture.
Tom Kenyon: Grand Junction’s mayor’s day job is as a realtor with Bray and Company.
Paul Nelson: Former City Councilman, and real estate agent with Caldwell Banker.
Chris Herrman: May be the only true conservationist on this list-he’s worked with land trusts and Trout Unlimited. He’s an avid mountain biking enthusiast.
Sean Norris: a business consultant and employee of Norris Environmental, LLC, a firm specializing in cleaning up environmental messes caused by the oil and gas industry.
Bottom line: A bunch of people who are involved in real estate development and/or the oil and gas industry are calling themselves by a name that involves the word, but not the concept of conservation. They don’t want any input from the unwashed masses, they just want a forum to get their pro-development message out.