Curry focuses on natural resources |

Curry focuses on natural resources

Kathleen Curry was motivated to run for the Colorado House of Representatives nearly two years ago by what she saw as egregious misrepresentation by state Rep. Gregg Rippy. Rippy, R-Glenwood Springs, held the decisive vote in the House committee that approved Referendum A, or the “Big Straw.” The statewide initiative would have committed billions of dollars toward diverting water from the Western Slope to the Front Range. Voters defeated the measure last year, but not before a drawn out, expensive campaign.”He knew it would pass on the floor,” Curry said last week. “Our representative was key to getting Referendum A out of committee.”Shortly after Rippy made that vote, which he claimed was simply a matter of “procedure,” Curry began her campaign as a Democrat to unseat him.A lot has changed since then, including Rippy’s decision to step down. Now she faces two political newcomers, Becky Rippy, who is married to Gregg Rippy’s cousin, and Dale Reed, a member of the Libertarian Party.And the issue at the center of her candidacy, the need to combat the ambitions of Front Range communities to divert more water from the Roaring Fork and Gunnison river basins, is not quite as urgent. But that doesn’t mean the Western Slope can let its guard down. Curry pointed out that conversations about diverting more water out of the Roaring Fork to meet the needs of Colorado Springs and Pueblo are ongoing.From 1998 to 2004, Curry served as a manager for the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District. Focusing on in-stream flows, her job was to keep an eye out for the rivers and streams in her area and work to keep enough water flowing to keep them ecologically viable. She hopes to use that experience to represent her constituents – whether they’re ranchers and farmers, fishermen, kayakers or environmentalists.”The Front Range is starting to realize they have to work with us, not against us,” she said.But water is only part of the equation when it comes to deciding how to allocate and exploit natural resources on the Western Slope. The other part is the land itself, particularly the trend to drill natural gas wells in previously unspoiled, remote areas.”In state government, I think we need to pick up where county authority leaves off,” she said. In many respects, both local and state governments are powerless over the drilling decisions of the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. But she would nevertheless seek to convene local governments, industry representatives, landowners, environmentalists and representatives from state and federal agencies and discuss ways to protect local interests.Aside from natural resource issues, the other big challenge facing the state is the budget, Curry said. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle now recognize the damaging effects of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights Amendment, or TABOR, adopted by a citizen initiative into the state constitution more than 10 years ago.Curry said she, like many lawmakers, can live with limits on new spending that are embodied in TABOR; she likes the fact that voters need to be consulted before new taxes are imposed. But Curry also thinks the “racheting down” effect of the amendment, which doesn’t allow the state to readjust spending to prerecession levels, is destructive.”I want that to be lifted. I want the budget to be able to float [back to previous spending levels].”Curry, a Colorado native, has spent the last seven years working a cattle ranch with her husband, Greg Peterson, and raising two boys, Bill and Joe. Currently, she and Joe raise grass-fed, organic beef under the name Tomichi Creek Cattle.She has a master’s degree in water resources planning and management from Colorado State University. She earned her undergraduate degree in agricultural and resource economics from University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

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