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Greg Poschman guest commentary: Make your voice heard in statewide oil and gas regulations

On Dec. 17, the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) will meet in Denver to vote on new and amended statewide regulations of the oil and gas industry, which are designed to cut methane and ozone emissions in all aspects of oil and gas production, including drilling, storage and transport.

Prior to that meeting, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Rifle City Hall, the public will have the opportunity to share their sentiments on air quality protections with the AQCC, and we strongly urge Roaring Fork Valley residents to attend.

Here’s why it matters:

Pitkin County residents have a big stake in the decisions the AQCC is making. We have built our economy and our lives around a healthy environment, and it is critical that the AQCC take action to protect our local, regional and state-wide air quality.

With an economy that is built around year-round tourism and recreation, the residents of Pitkin County — and the entire Roaring Fork Valley — recognize of the need to protect air quality and mitigate factors causing climate change, and residents overwhelmingly support statewide regulations to limit methane and ozone emissions from oil and gas wells and production.

The effects of climate change accelerated by methane emissions may have a big economic impact on the Western Slope with several factors. First, longer, more intense wildfire seasons threaten our health and homes, as well as our year-round tourism economy. Second, shorter, less predictable winters affect our ski and winter recreation industry. These climate-related challenges are not some future threat that climatologists are predicting. They are here now.

Ozone, along with methane, is one of the harmful gasses that leaks from wells. The consequences of exposure to ozone can be significant, forcing healthy adults to alter their lifestyles and threatening the health of elderly residents and children. In fact, ozone can trigger asthma attacks, worsen other respiratory diseases such as emphysema, and increase the risk of heart attacks and heart disease.

The new regulations that the AQCC is voting address important issues, including the following:

· Increased leak detection and repair (LDAR): Currently on the Western Slope, low-producing wells only need to be inspected once in their entire life, while on the Front Range, there are more stringent LDAR requirements, which have dramatically cut emissions. The new rules would require semi-annual inspections statewide. We deserve the same protections on the Western Slope.

· Find and fix statewide: The proposed rules would require operators to inspect pneumatic devices that are notoriously leaky and fix them immediately.

· Increased controls on storage tanks, which like wells, are a major source of methane and ozone emissions.

· Expanding the requirement to employ best management practices to well-plugging activities.

These are common sense rules that need to be applied across the state to be effective.

Please consider making the drive to Rifle on Tuesday so your voice can be heard. Let the state know that all Coloradans deserve to breathe clean air and live in a healthy climate.

Alternatively, you can email the AQCC at cdphe.aqcc-comments@state.co.us. Following is suggested language:

• I support the proposed rules on methane pollution. It makes sense to require better monitoring and leak detection, better equipment inspections, and better protection for homes and schools.

• I support keeping the proposed 2021 compliance date for all Western Slope well sites. Don’t delay this for any size tank and I support the twice-annual leak detection and repair cycle for all well sites. The state’s own data show that doing this will stop a significant amount of leakage of methane and dangerous VOCs.

• The new rules need to take methane pollution on the Western Slope seriously. We know these rules can work because they already are making a difference on the Front Range. It’s time for rural Colorado communities to get the same air quality, economic, and quality of life benefits.

• Climate change is already harming my community. Methane is one of the worst carbon pollutants. We can and should do a better job of reducing this pollution.

The AQCC has the opportunity to act now to protect air quality and the climate throughout Colorado. We urge them to adopt strong statewide regulations.

Greg Poschman is chair of the Pitkin County Board of Commissioners.

Guest commentary: Sen. Cory Gardner needs to honor vets with ‘yes’ vote for CORE Act

On this Veterans Day, we are reminded of the brave soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division, who trained at Camp Hale outside of Leadville and defended our country during World War II.

As we remember these veterans today, we encourage fellow citizens to contact Sen. Cory Gardner to ask him to honor them by voting “Yes” for the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act in the U.S. Senate. Earlier this month, we celebrated a landmark victory for the bill when it passed the U.S. House of Representatives — a victory that brings us closer than ever before to realizing protections for several beloved places in western Colorado.

The CORE Act would protect 400,000 acres of land across four landscapes — areas that have each been introduced in Congress as stand-alone legislative proposals in the past. It will create new and sustainable recreational opportunities and expand wilderness in the White River and San Juan National Forests, permanently remove Thompson Divide from new oil and gas leasing, increase public access to and management of fishing areas in the Curecanti National Recreation Area, and importantly, honor our veterans (and many of the founding members of the modern recreation industry in Colorado) by establishing Camp Hale as the nation’s first National Historic Landscape.

These 400,000 acres include some of Colorado’s most beautiful landscapes, as well as prime wildlife habitat and offer tremendous opportunities for connection to the natural world through all types of recreation. Notably, our beloved Thompson Divide, which spans more than 15 watersheds in Garfield, Pitkin and Gunnison counties, also provides clean water and high-quality grazing for agricultural and ranching operations.

As veterans who fought in Italy during World War II and in the Vietnam War to protect our country and public lands, and as the son of a 10th Mountain Division veteran, Sgt. Harry Poschman, we believe that passing the CORE Act honors all veterans. Designating and protecting historic Camp Hale and all the landscapes within this bill is essential to preventing these lands from being diminished by private interests, and most importantly, preserving them in perpetuity for future generations.

Camp Hale was the only military installment in the nation to provide high-altitude combat training to soldiers who were preparing to fight in the harsh winter conditions of the Italian Apennines during WWII. At an elevation of 9,200 feet, the location was ideal for creating an elite ski corps that was highly advanced in alpine and nordic skiing, mountain climbing, and cold-weather combat and survival.

Before the last of the 10th Mountain Division troopers pass on, Colorado’s senators and congressmen should join forces to honor them by designating this landscape, as well as protect the 400,000 acres of land proposed in the CORE Act. Now that the bill’s fate rests in the hands of the Senate, Sen. Gardner has a real opportunity to be a champion for Colorado’s public lands, which are so important to the identity and vitality of our state.

The CORE Act has been widely vetted through years of community engagement, and the final bill is the result of compromise and collaboration among a broad and diverse set of stakeholders. Sen. Gardner has not yet taken a position on the bill and it is our hope that he will become an advocate for it, helping to distinguish Colorado as a leader for public lands stewardship among the Western states. Now we need your help!

Please take a moment to contact him today and ask him to vote “Yes” for this legislation. Call 202-224-5941 or www.gardner.senate.gov/contact-cory/email-cory.

John Tripp, 100, of Carbondale is the Roaring Fork Valley’s last living 10th Mountain Division and a WWII veteran. Lt. Col. Richard Merritt USMC (Ret) of Basalt is a Vietnam veteran. Greg Poschman of Aspen is a Pitkin County Commissioner whose father trained at Camp Hale.

A mother’s perspective: Your actions matter when it comes to suicide

It is two years from Wednesday I lost my baby. I still cry every day, my heart still hurts and any little thing can trigger a memory that will still bring me to my knees. I miss him with every ounce of my being. Let today be the day you look at someone a little different. Let today be the day you make someone feel like they matter and things will get better.

The day that Patrick’s father died, the boys and I left the hospital and they were really hungry so I took them out to eat. We were sitting around the table in a busy restaurant that was packed and a waiter who was struggling to keep up came to our table to wait on us. They were all trying very hard to hold it together and just put some food in their system. The waiter came to the table to get our order and must have sensed the weight of the scene so he was trying very hard to be funny and to get one of them to smile. I so appreciated this young man’s effort. The next trip to the table he explained it was his first day and sorry he wasn’t doing a good job. I just smiled and said that it absolutely wasn’t him, we were just all having a very challenging day.

That was the day I looked at my surroundings differently. It wasn’t about what I was feeling and why did the world keep spinning? It was what other hurt is around me and how can I give that one person the smile of acceptance, nod of appreciation, smile of understanding or just a feeling that they “matter.” The boys and I talked about it for a while that day. I was sitting at a table of children who had just lost their father from suicide.

Sixteen months later, I lost my son Patrick to suicide. Again I have to look at my surroundings and ask, “What is that person feeling or going through today?”

Make someone feel like they matter today. You never know, it may make them feel better about themself and they will choose to live. Smile at them, hold a door for them, say hello, just give them a look of understanding and acceptance.

Save a parent, grandparent, aunt/uncle, child, spouse the feeling of loss because someone felt they didn’t matter and they hurt so much they took their own life and a part of their loved ones’ heart.

Patrick would go into the grocery store and buy a sandwich and a drink and take it out to a homeless guy in the parking lot. One time on our way to Lake Powell we stopped at a gas station in Grand Junction for fuel and I needed coffee. Patrick bought two cups of coffee and took them to two guys sleeping on a bench. He was a giver.

Temple Glassier is a Roaring Fork Valley native who has dedicated herself to preventing suicide since the death of her son in 2018.

Judson Haims: Estate planning is key to avoid heartache and anxiety

Once again, I am watching a client’s family being torn apart by sibling rivalry, anxiety and a deep sense of hopelessness. It’s hard to watch this happen time and time again. No, a loved one has not passed away — yet. And this is the problem.

When this family’s father passed away a few years ago, their mourning and sadness was somewhat isolated to just the emotional loss of their dad. His will clearly defined his final wishes and his financial affairs were, for the most part, in order. A couple years after their father’s passing, the adult children thought it best that their mother come live with the son here in Colorado. The son set up a checking and savings account at a local Colorado bank, had social security payments, investment accounts, and real estate interests redirected to the new account. All was good — so he thought.

Recently, the mother experienced a stroke while exercising and was hospitalized. She’s doing better now. However, while she was hospitalized, the family had been informed that they could not access many of their mother’s financial accounts nor her health care directives. It seems that when the mother moved here from another state, she was in good health and of sound mind. Her husband had efficiently managed the development of a trust and their medical and financial matters. Therefore, nobody had thought about the need to modify or add their names to financial accounts, medical powers of attorney documents, and HIPAA consent forms.

Fortunately, because the family’s mother lived, there is an opportunity to develop proper documents. Unfortunately, the finger pointing, criticism, bickering and guilt has likely caused irreversible harm among the family.

BE PROACTIVE; REACTIVE CAN BE COSTLY, SAD

Rich or poor, or somewhere in between, we all have ideas of what we’d like to see our future look like. More than likely, most people may not want to envision a time spent in court, arguing with sibling and other family members, or fighting with financial institutions and health providers to uphold end-of-life wishes and the management of personal assets.

Unfortunately, for people who have not taken the time to get educated about planning for end-of-life legal, financial and medical matters, heartache, turmoil, along with family and sibling quarrelling may be inevitable.

Estate planning does not only apply to wealthy individuals. If you or your aging loved ones own property or other assets like stocks and bonds, it is important that you educate yourself about the importance of documents such as a will, advance directives, powers of attorney (both financial and health matters), and various types trusts. Avoid the potential of formidable challenges by taking the time to understand how these documents may affect you and your aging loved ones.

Regrettably, outside of law school, there are few educational courses that teach people how to prepare for medical or financial emergencies in addition to the intricacies of the distribution of an estate. According to an article by Forbes, nearly 50% of Americans aged 55 and older have not created a will. Further, less than 20% of the people in this cohort have health care directives and the proper types of power of attorney.

When it comes managing your, or your loved ones, health care and financial wishes upon death, laws are quite specific about who can participate in health care and financial related conversations and decisions.

The following are some of the documents one may need to have when developing an estate plan:

• General, Limited, and Durable Power(s) of Attorney

• Springing Power of Attorney

• Disability Trusts (children of passing parents)

• Irrevocable/Revocable Living Trusts

• Living Will

• Advance care directive

• HIPAA consent form

Proper and timely estate planning can really help during a time of family crisis. Preplanning will greatly assist family members and loved ones to know what medical and financial efforts you or your ill family member(s) would want. Further, having the proper documents in order will provide you and your family members the legal means to carry out those wishes.

At the end of the day, legal documents will not solve all problems. The best approach to developing a well-conceived “plan” will start with a conversation that occurs well before an unexpected issue arises. Speak with your partner, family and sibling(s) about what your wishes are.

Without proper legal documents, at best, assets may go to probate and tax implications may eat away at your wealth/inheritance. At worst, family and loved ones may see the worst in each other.

If you are living in a state other than where your legal documents were created (particularly medical power of attorney), you should check to make sure they conform to the state in which you are now residing. While most state laws often recognize powers of attorney that were validly created in another state, there are situations where problems may arise.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale. He is an advocate for the elderly and is available to answer questions. He can be reached at www.visitingangels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.

Giving Thought: Building a resilient community through philanthropy

Depending on how you look at it, the Aspen-to-Parachute region is home to between 400 and 1,000 tax-exempt organizations. Included in these numbers are a range of organizations such as sports clubs, religious groups, fraternal societies and private foundations.

At Aspen Community Foundation, we are often asked for “the” list of nonprofits serving the region.

Through our lens of supporting children and families and strengthening community, we regularly identify about 100 core nonprofit organizations. These include organizations delivering after-school and enrichment programs, K-12 and early-childhood education and interventions for youth as well as those supporting individuals and families during crisis, providing physical and behavioral health services, and caring for the environment and animals.

Each year, through individual contributions, Aspen Community Foundation is able to support 35 to 40 nonprofit organizations through our community grant-making process. These nonprofits support children, students and families, help individuals access health services, assist those who experience financial hardship and aid those who seek safety and justice. This year, 38 nonprofits received funding through this competitive process.

These organizations are all providing programs and services that are important to the community. And some are providing what we call essential services, services that help people in crisis and help them seek professional help whether its medical or psychological or legal advice.

Response, for example, helps domestic violence victims to end the abuse and find their way to a safer, better place. Planned Parenthood in Glenwood Springs specializes in sexual and reproductive health care and education. Alpine Legal Services provides civil legal services at little or no cost. Helping individuals to solve problems and improve their lives makes for a healthier and more resilient community, and we want to ensure that these services are accessible to everyone who needs them.

Accordingly, when ACF makes “essential services” grants, we typically provide general operating support, which gives the recipient organizations flexibility to choose where and how they spend the money. Shannon Meyer, executive director of Response, says this kind of funding is “crucial for us” because it enables the organization to fill budget gaps and react to circumstances in the moment — whether it’s providing temporary housing to a domestic violence victim or accompanying a victim to a medical appointment. We trust these partners to decide where the funding is most needed and most effective.

For the past few years, Aspen-based Response has moved beyond simply helping and treating survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. The organization now provides age-appropriate classes for youth and community members about everything from bullying to sexual harassment to body image and teen-dating violence. The idea is to reduce or eliminate the root causes of the problem.

“We would like not to have people out there in need of our services,” Meyer explained. “You might say we want to work ourselves out of business.”

At Planned Parenthood in Glenwood Springs, Health Center Manager Rebecca Binion says 60% of the patients who enter the door lack health insurance or Medicaid coverage, so ACF’s grants and other unrestricted donations enable the organization to serve their “patients in need.” Whether a patient seeks family planning options, a test for a sexually transmitted disease or a wellness check, this money helps them to get what they need.

“This allows patients to access any services we provide without finances being a barrier,” Binion said. “The majority of patients we see don’t have any other means of payment.”

Similarly, Alpine Legal Services offers legal help to those who might not otherwise be able to afford an attorney. Imagine, for example, a 70-year-old on a fixed income who has been subjected to some form of elder abuse, whether it be financial exploitation or manipulation by caregivers. That person should be able to seek protection under the law, regardless of ability to pay.

As charitable organizations, our local nonprofits rely on philanthropy — contributions from individuals, businesses, government and foundations — to deliver programs and services that cultivate resiliency and help individuals and families thrive. We are all fortunate to live in a community where help is almost always available. The Roaring Fork Valley may be a semi-rural region, but there is a stunning network of resources available to those in need. Charitable giving is a huge part of the reason for that.

Tamara Tormohlen is executive director of Aspen Community Foundation.

Judson Haims: Options for when long-term care insurance companies deny or won’t pay claim

Long Term Care Insurance (LTCI) is not an insurance most people know much about. Considering that we all will reach a point in life where we will need some type of long-term care, it might be worth looking into.

LTCI is an insurance that pays for services that are not covered by private health insurance and sometimes, neither by Medicare. It pays for both medical and non-medical services that aid individuals who are unable to take care of themselves due to prolonged ailment, chronic illness or disability. The care can be provided in a facility such as an assisted living facility or within a person’s home.

Although the insurance may be a good idea to help cover the expensive services involved in keeping a loved one as independent as possible, insurers who make it difficult to open a claim, refuses to pay them or besiege people in red tape are undermining the value of this insurance.

In recent years, we have been contacted by many LTCI policy holders who have run into trouble when attempting to open claims. Sadly, this has become a big problem.

Last week, I received a call from the daughter of a past client. Since February of this year, she has been fighting with her parent’s LTCI provider to open a claim for her father. Her folks bought long-term care insurance policies years ago and have paid its steep premiums ever since, but when her father needed benefits, the insurer had refused to open the claim.

In April, after repeatedly being stonewalled, she called our office and asked for assistance. Her father’s LTCI provider was using “delay tactics” by pretending they had not received faxed documents needed to open a claim. Fortunately, we were able to provide her time-stamped copies of all email and phone conversations along with fax documentation containing daily care notes of the services provided.

When communicating with an insurance company, it’s imperative that you document the time of your call and the name/ID of the person you spoke with. When communicating in writing, always try to use a fax so you can log the time and verify the documents were received. If mailing, send documents with a signature request verification.

About two weeks after the insurance company was sent the requested documents, they informed the daughter that they could not open a claim as they still needed copy of our state license. Once again, we provided them the license along with a fax log verifying that it had been sent months before.

In June, the insurance company verified receipt of all required documentation but told the daughter that as per the policy, they would not provide benefits until her father was deficient in at least two Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). Incredulously the daughter informed them that the established care plan clearly identified that he was deficient in four of six ADLs and should therefore certainly meet their requirement of being deficient in two ADLs.

While there are a number more, six generally recognized ADLs include: bathing, dressing, eating, transferring, toileting and continence. Her father was unable to bathe, dress, manage medication, prepare a meal, or transport himself to a grocery store to get food.

Disheartened to hear that the LTCI provider was conducting themselves in such a questionable manner, I put the daughter in contact with the state’s insurance commissioner’s office. Just about all insurance providers are regulated by this office. They are very effective in motivating insurance providers to act responsibly and will follow-up with you regularly until the matter is resolved.

I was relieved to hear last week that the insurance company finally opened the claim and reimbursed the family for the services they had paid for out of pocket.

Undoubtedly, LTCI can be a wonderful thing, and thousands of policy holders would tell you truthfully that their policy has been a lifesaver during their time of need.

I do not want to leave the impression that all providers act unethically. Most are responsible and want to help. However, when you encounter one that may be suspect, you must educate yourself of the details of your policy and have the fortitude to advocate for yourself.

When considering the purchase of an LTCI policy or needing to open a claim, make sure you understand the following four elements of an LTCI policy:

1. What they will/will not cover?

2. What is the daily/weekly amount of coverage?

3. What are their terms/qualifications for opening a claim?

4. What is the “elimination” period? (Elimination period is often described as the amount of time that must pass after a claim is opened but before you start receiving reimbursements.)

Judson Haims is owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt, and Carbondale. He is an advocate for the elderly and is available to answer questions. He can be reached at www.visitingangels.com/comtns or 970-328-5526.

Giving Thought: There are many faces of homelessness in Roaring Fork Valley

When you hear the word “homeless,” what comes to mind? I’ll guess it’s a disheveled man who sleeps by the road in a makeshift shelter or asks for handouts on a street corner.

“Homeless” is an accurate description for those recognizable people who live on the street, but they represent only a quarter to a third of the people who, at any given time, are temporarily or permanently without a home.

Roughly two thirds to three quarters of the homeless population, both locally and nationally, is comprised of people who have encountered some kind of obstacle — medical, domestic, financial, employment-related — and will eventually find their way back to stability.

Counting the homeless is extremely difficult, but a point-in-time study conducted statewide on a single night in January 2019 found 2,302 homeless individuals across the state, 21 in Pitkin County and 71 in Garfield County. The study itself, conducted by Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, says the numbers probably underrepresent the true population.

If the people sleeping under the bridges, predominantly men, can be called “chronically homeless,” then the more typical case in the Roaring Fork Valley could be called “situationally homeless.” Picture someone who is gainfully employed but loses his or her housing because of a divorce, domestic violence or a dispute with a landlord. It could be someone unable to find housing because it’s not available or they can’t afford it. A health emergency also can pack a wallop for a household that subsists from paycheck to paycheck.

In Pitkin County, while we may not see many “out on the streets,” the number of people who are just steps away from homelessness is higher than you would think. Seasonal employment and the high cost of living already make it challenging to make ends meet. One unforeseen financial crisis can mean the difference between living in an apartment and living in your car.

Catholic Charities in Glenwood Springs helps people who are about to be evicted or who are struggling to find housing. Currently, the organization is receiving six to 10 requests a week for housing assistance, a level not seen in a few years. According to Marian McDonough, the regional director, several of these requests are from people who moved to the area for jobs but haven’t been able to find housing. And with the cooling temperatures, people who had been living in their cars are now seeking to come indoors.

And it’s not just adults who experience homelessness, our youth do, too.

In the 2018-19 school year, our region had 242 children and youth between the ages of 5 and 18 who were designated homeless. There also were an additional 21 children under the age of 5 in this category.

Schools define homelessness as children who lack a fixed, regular or adequate nighttime residence. This could mean they are living with their families in motels, camping or renting rooms from others without a lease. It also could mean that the youth themselves are couch surfing or sleeping in cars, parks or public spaces. These unaccompanied young people are the most vulnerable as they are dealing with the crises of homelessness without a safe, supportive parent or guardian.

“Many teens feel like people assume they did something wrong or bad to get into this situation,” according to Kyle Crawley, executive director of Stepping Stones, a Carbondale-based program that provides a safe and structured environment for youth who are facing a variety of challenges including homelessness and abuse.

“Often times though the reality is that there is not one single decision made by the youth that led to homelessness,” Crawley said. “Instead, years of instability or living in an undesirable home environment makes leaving home their only choice.”

The overall point is that the faces of homelessness in our valley include a lot of people who look more familiar than you’d expect. Given these various kinds of homelessness, tackling the issue involves multiple solutions, coordinated efforts and people with multiple skills. It will take a collective effort — some are already underway — to develop a system where both the chronically homeless and the situationally homeless can find the support they need to get back on their feet.

In the meantime, there are several organizations in the valley whose missions are to help the homeless by providing shelter, food and various health and human services. Aspen Homeless Shelter, Feed My Sheep, Catholic Charities and Stepping Stones are just a few. We can be assured that these organizations are working hard every day to connect people to resources, to serve a hot meal and to help people find a warm bed, even if it’s just for the night.

Tamara Tormohlen is executive director of Aspen Community Foundation.

Guest commentary: Rep. Scott Tipton needs to be more invested in Thompson Divide

A couple of weeks ago, we had the pleasure of attending a gathering of communities from both sides of McClure Pass in a show of unity for protecting our shared public lands from disruptive new oil and gas development.

The second annual “Stand at the Summit” — hosted by Wilderness Workshop and Thompson Divide Coalition of Carbondale, Western Slope Conservation Center of Paonia, and High Country Conservation Advocates of Crested Butte — brought together more than 65 residents and several local and federal elected officials representatives.

It was an effort to permanently stop new oil and gas leasing in Thompson Divide, as well as to protect the integrity of the roadless areas contained within it, including the Huntsman Roadless Area near the top of McClure Pass.

Stretching across five counties and 12 National Forest roadless areas within the White River, Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests, Thompson Divide is a pivotal landscape for nearby ranching and farming communities that rely heavily on its clean air and water and unfragmented habitat for their livelihoods.

Recreationists of all types, too, flock to all reaches of this massive landscape to enjoy its award-winning hunting and angling opportunities, hikes with stunning vistas, rock climbing, snowmobiling and backcountry skiing, among others. Our local communities see many direct economic benefits by these users.

The Huntsman Roadless Area stands out as an example of ecological importance among its roadless counterparts in the Divide, providing calving areas and summer/winter range for elk, black bear, mountain lion, mule deer, turkey and moose. It also supports habitat for lynx, Colorado River cutthroat trout, the northern goshawk, flammulated owl, purple martin and American marten.

It’s also a source of municipal water, and is depended upon by folks downstream for clean drinking water and water for agriculture and irrigation.

Communities on both sides of McClure Pass have worked together for more than a decade to protect this economically important, shared landscape from oil and gas development. Though years of engagement, advocacy and compromise across a broad-spectrum of diverse stakeholders has led to lease cancellations in the Divide, with compensation to those lease holders, the area is still not permanently protected from future oil and gas development.

The only way to ensure permanence is to pass federal legislation that removes the threat of future leasing — an effort that has been championed by several of our federal elected officials over the years, most recently through Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Joe Neguse’s Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act.

As a rancher from the North Fork Valley and a Pitkin County commissioner who represents the Crystal River Valley, we were excited to join so many of our friends and neighbors from both sides of the pass in an expression of gratitude for those who are working to protect the Divide, as well as disappointment for those few who continue to stand in the way.

Though we commend Congressman Scott Tipton for having a staff member present at the event to listen to his constituents’ pleas for support, listening is not enough.

Our message has been loud, clear and consistent for years — so loud, in fact, that we’ve captivated the support of people throughout the region for protecting the Divide. And yet, Rep. Scott Tipton continues to oppose permanent protection for Thompson Divide, making no mention of it in his own public lands bill, which is focused on the 3rd District, and also coincidentally supports a permanent withdrawal from future leasing in the San Juans.

Rep. Tipton, protecting the Thompson Divide is not a partisan issue, it’s an economic, social and environmental issue. Your constituents, including all the county commissioners and municipal governments on both sides of the Divide, who are impacted by decisions made for the Divide, agree that this unique landscape should be permanently protected.

We ask you once again to join us and your colleagues in Congress as a champion for this broadly supported local cause.

As former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in regards to the Thompson Divide: “You can’t do oil and gas development everywhere. There are some places that should be off limits.”

George Newman is a Pitkin County commissioner and Tony Prendergast is a rancher in the North Fork Valley based in Crawford.

Guest commentary: Colorado journalism needs public support

There was a time, not so long ago, when the two of us were foes in a “newspaper war.”

We thought that the winner would be in a position to thrive as the sole surviving major newspaper in the Denver metropolitan area.

Were we ever wrong.

John’s Rocky Mountain News died 10 years ago.

Greg’s Denver Post lives on, with about 70 journalists in a newsroom that once had 275.

The journalism world in Colorado — and nationally — has been turned upside down in ways we never anticipated.

As a result, instead of going head to head every day, the two of us are putting our heads together working on the Colorado Media Project, a concerted effort to sound the alarm about the decline of journalism and how we might build a brighter, more sustainable future.

On Sunday, the project released a report we think deserves the attention of anyone who cares about the state’s future.

It starts with a premise we both share: that quality journalism is essential to our democracy, and that without it, the state and country risk not having vibrant, engaged and informed communities.

The report sounds many alarms. Since 2010, the number of reporters or correspondents working in all media in Colorado has plummeted from roughly 1,000 to fewer than 600, a trend that shows no sign of abating, even while the state’s population is booming.

Since 2004, the state has lost 21 newspapers — almost 1 out of every 5. And there’s good reason to think more will suffer the same fate. Television and radio news staffs have declined, as well. There is lots of blame to go around from declining advertising revenue, changing news consumption habits, a premium on profits and questionable responses to the emerging digital landscape.

But our goal is not to be defensive or to depress you. Trust us, though. Things are bad enough that it’s fair to ask: In the years to come, how are Coloradans going to learn about and understand the rapidly-changing cities and state we live in, know who’s using their power for good or ill and who’s being hurt or helped by the decisions of our elected officials?

At one time, we believed that competition was the key to the kind of reporting that answers those questions. After all, it was competition that pressured us to dig up original stories and invest in new coverage areas when we were competing newspaper editors.

Today, we realize collaboration may be even more important than competition.

We want to offer solutions about how the public interest can continue to be served. It is a moment for experimentation and creativity.

That is why we believe it’s critical that Coloradans now seriously consider the project’s fundamental recommendation that public support — yes, the use of tax dollars — be one of the steps the state takes to help sustain and develop local public-service journalism.

We accept that even raising the specter of public support, which is already being tried in Canada and New Jersey, is controversial.

But there’s one thing we think the people of Colorado can’t afford to accept: Doing nothing.

If Coloradans want a healthy democracy, journalism is going to need help.

We believe Colorado should explore joining the 35 other states that provide state funding to support independent public media. In Colorado, the money could also support new and existing ventures committed to public affairs journalism.

There are lots of ways the state could do this, as our report points out. One would be to levy the state’s sales tax on advertising directed at Coloradans on global tech platforms like Google, Facebook and Amazon. The state already charges sales tax on some services, why not on digital ads?

Another would be to give local communities the power to raise revenue to meet their information needs, just the way the Denver metro area has done for the arts with its Scientific and Cultural Facilities District.

The report contains a number of other proposals that we hope galvanize more people to become involved, to take action to address a crisis that threatens the very fabric of our communities. We hope concerned Coloradans will generate new ideas or better versions of the ones put forth in the report.

One thing that is clear from research for this project: Advertising and subscriptions alone will not be enough to support the kind of media we think this state deserves, the way they once supported the Rocky and still support the Post.

We wish things were different. We kind of enjoyed being competitors. And never really wanted it to end.

But end it has. Whatever the future holds, we believe journalism must survive to illuminate the state’s trials and triumphs, to reveal who we are and help us see who we can be. To do nothing is too high a price to pay.

John Temple was the editor of the Rocky Mountain News from 1998 to 2009. Greg Moore was the editor of The Denver Post from 2002 to 2016. Today they are members of the Public Policy Working Group of the Colorado Media Project.

Guest column: Bullying must go, but climate change is here

I am dismayed by the headline and story on Thursday’s front page, for a few reasons (“Some local parents hot over schools’ climate talk,” Oct. 10, The Aspen Times).

No child at any school should ever be persecuted by peers for their beliefs. If children throw rocks at every other child who might disagree with them, we will have an anarchic society soon enough. Perhaps, in addition to science, we need to teach our kids about empathy and equality and the First Amendment (something most students in the U.S. know nothing about, which is dangerous enough).

But more, I am dismayed by thoughts expressed by some of the unnamed parents at our recent school board meeting that somehow the subjects around climate that the Aspen schools are teaching are “politically motivated” or “anti-capitalist.” I posit that climate science is what is being taught, and we should be more than invested in the learning that our kids are engaged in on this front.

Climate has become a political issue because we citizens, with our competing and growing desires for various goods and services, have let it become one. Governed by our loudest lobbyists, climate mitigation has become thornier than health care reform. Heaven help us.

Depending on whose statistics one reads, the vast majority of citizens in the U.S. and beyond believe we need to make change when it comes to this large, looming dilemma of warming oceans and associated repercussions. Were it that recycling and composting would make threats of climate challenges all go away! While admirable, the issues we face will require a much larger commitment from industry as well as individuals, governments as well as voting citizens. It is heartening that one of the more conservative business groups — the Business Roundtable — has embraced just in the past month a broader view of the responsibilities of corporations, among them, sustainability.

And thankfully there are many politicians on both sides of the aisle, conservative Sen. Lindsay Graham for starters, who agree with the 90-plus percent of all scientists worldwide who express a sense of urgency to combat the effects of climate change. Not that getting to consensus on what to do is going to be easy, but let’s not pretend there is no issue by proclaiming this just a political one.

As for climate worry being somehow “anti-capitalist”? All capitalists found their livelihoods in solving problems — and making money at it. I am looking to the future generation — this one that is right here in Aspen’s public schools, the one that is going to suffer most from the decisions and lifestyles we lead today — to solve the problems that a changing climate will cause and to be economically successful at the same time. And many “capitalists” are making big bets and generating great profits through the development of smart technologies that are mitigating the effects of climate change, including incredible start-ups but also traditional oil companies, utilities, auto firms — those that might otherwise be considered the worst offenders in our climate dilemmas. We need to do more, yes, and the good news is we can make money doing so. Seems pretty smart to me.

Frankly, if our school teachers are presenting the science of climate and the possibilities for a better future at the same time, bring it on. Please, let’s not look at this as politics being taught in our schools. Our climate dilemmas are ones we all face, regardless of political position, and we should keep the discussion in that realm, looking to politicians to help sort through the best policies for mitigation, but not to sow division among citizens that there is or isn’t a problem. Because if we think and act as if there isn’t one, and believe that threats posed by climate is a myth constructed by the far left to destroy capitalism, I believe we are in real trouble.

No, I don’t agree that the world will end in 2030. But by 2050, without substantive action, our kids may experience habitat devastation with threats to supplies of food and water that will wreak havoc well beyond the classrooms of Aspen. There are places in the world where this is already happening — including the U.S.

Who knows? Perhaps one or more of these kids, inspired by teachers who challenge them to be excited about science and the problem solving it offers, to aspire to addressing the greatest challenges we face. Just Wednesday, three Nobel Prize Laureates were awarded the penultimate decoration for their inquiry into the lithium-ion battery, the one that has “laid the foundation of a wireless, fossil-fuel free society.” The ones that will employ this technology the most? The capitalists who are working to make the world a safer place.

As an executive at The Aspen Institute, Kitty Boone runs the nonprofit organization’s Public Programs and Aspen Ideas Festival.