Capital Watch helps Aspen-area residents keep eye on environmental moves by Trump, Congress

A drilling rig north of Parachute drills several wells from one pad in July 2014. Wilderness Workshop will keep a close eye on the Trump administration's direciton on opening public lands for oil and gas extraction.
Aspen Times file photo |

The Aspen-area’s oldest homegrown environmental group has launched a program to help its supporters keep tracks of threats to public lands emerging from Washington, D.C.

Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop started Capital Watch this month to coincide with President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The organization will periodically send subscribers on its mailing list a notice about action by the Trump administration or Congress that could threaten lands in the Roaring Fork Valley or lands near and dear to the hearts of valley residents — such as lands in Utah’s canyon country and Alaska.

It’s “Capital” rather than “Capitol” because Wilderness Workshop will examine actions of Congress in addition to the White House.

The goal, said Wilderness Workshop Executive Director Sloan Shoemaker, isn’t to bombard people. His staff doesn’t want to be accused of crying wolf by sending an alarm about all environmental issues. The notices will be selective.

“People who want to push back needed to be empowered to do that.” — Sloan Shoemaker, Wilderness Workshop

The idea came about when Shoemaker heard from people after the November election that they were yearning to get involved on issues important to them but were struggling on how to stay informed.

“People who want to push back needed to be empowered to do that,” Shoemaker said.

Capital Watch was launched Jan. 19 with a notice about a Congressional rule that would make it easier to transfer public lands to the states and a bill that would make creation of new national monuments nearly impossible.

Capital Watch bulletins are sent via email to Wilderness Workshop subscribers and are posted on the group’s website. The website features an image of protesters outside the White House, with fir trees towering overhead.

“Capital Watch: Real-time citizen action to hold D.C. accountable,” the site says.

The site lists issues of interest. Under a headline with the issue, it suggests what action should be taken, such as calling a specific member of Congress. It provides the telephone number and suggests the “key messages.”

So far, Wilderness Workshop has sent six Capital Watch notices. The response, Shoemaker said, has been “very positive.” The group previously sent “alerts” about a wide array of issues but rarely got any feedback.

The interest in Capital Watch appears to be linked to the determination of some people to get more involved in the political process after Trump’s election, Shoemaker said.

The nonprofit group, which was boosted last year by the election, now has more than 800 members. Its mailing list is in the thousands. While the annual membership fee is $30, it accepts whatever a person can afford, Shoemaker said. It also will add people for free to the Capital Watch list.