Calling out the county
February 19, 2013
I would like to take the time to respond to several of the supposed “facts” in the Pitkin County letter published Friday in The Aspen Times.
First, I was responsible for processing the leases mentioned when I was employed by the White River National Forest. The decision to lease these areas was made in 1993, when the leasing environmental impact statement for the forest was made. There was extensive public involvement in this process in strict adherence to National Environmental Policy Act.
I traveled to most of the communities associated with the forest and presented all of the scenarios associated with this decision. The public participation at these meetings was small in comparison to the forest-plan meetings. In addition, public comment was also minimal.
There were no viable appeals of the decision, and roadless was not even talked of. In the late 1990s, I received several requests for leases in the West Divide area. These are the ones that Willsource Enterprise eventually acquired. I dutifully processed those leases according to the leasing environmental impact statement stipulations.
In approximately 1998, I received several more applications for leases in the Thompson Divide area. At this time, I was told to hold off on processing these, because the administration was preparing to do the Roadless Review, and in fact we had started to map areas for this process.
Eventually the roadless review wound its way through the public involvement and was signed shortly thereafter. The decision was immediately challenged in court, and in July 2003, the Wyoming District Court issued a nationwide permanent injunction against the Roadless Rule. At this time, I had been sitting on those applications going on five years.
I then asked the Region 2 office as to what I should do regarding these lease applications, since the roadless rule had been barred from taking effect. I finally got an answer back and processed the applications. They were then sent on to the Bureau of Land Management for leasing. I cannot speak as to what the BLM did or did not do regarding the leases canceled in 2009, but they were not illegal leases.
I understand Pitkin County’s concern regarding this area, and they have a legal right to beat up their government and the Forest Service, but when they say that those leases were illegal, then they are accusing me personally of committing a crime, and that is patently a lie. I do hereby request an apology from George Newman and the rest of the Pitkin County commissioners for this attack on my integrity, with not a single shred of evidence.
As Joseph Goebbels said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”