Its official: Whats official doesnt matter | AspenTimes.com
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Its official: Whats official doesnt matter

While Colorado somehow lumbers on without an Official State Reptile, our state government doesnt pay any attention to its own official designations. I noticed this last weekend, when there were many Presidents Day promotions.Holidays reflect multiple levels of government. At the top are federal holidays, which technically affect only federal facilities like post offices, courts and ranger stations. The relevant one is officially Washingtons Birthday, celebrated on the third Monday in February.State offices can be open or closed on federal holidays, and states can have their own holidays. Our state government lists its official holidays in Colorado Revised Statute 24-11-107. Among them is the third Monday in February, commonly called Washington-Lincoln day.So under state or federal law, there is no Presidents Day. But both the Colorado Judicial Branch and the Colorado Secretary of State closed their offices Monday in honor of, you guessed it, Presidents Day, according to their websites.Since the state government pays no attention to its own official designations, one wonders why anyone would add to them. But every few years, a school class decides to learn about state government by proposing a new Official State Something. No legislator, other than perhaps Douglas Bruce, wants to be seen as opposed to something innocuous that is favored by cute kids who write letters, testify and otherwise lobby. So it generally goes through.Thus, we have an Official State Fossil (stegosaurus) and Official State Insect (Colorado hairstreak butterfly). We also have an official state grass, rock, mineral, tartan, fish and dance, as well as the usual flag, seal, tree, flower and song that other states have. (Indeed, we have two songs.)This time around, students at Skyline Vista Elementary School in Westminster have started to lobby for an Official State Reptile, the Western Painted Turtle. Not all other states have Official Reptiles, but many do: Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi designate the alligator; Arizona has the ridge-nosed rattlesnake; New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas have lizards; Wyoming uses the horned toad. Turtles and tortoises are the most common official state reptiles; theyre employed by 13 states.I once attended a turtle race in Grand Lake and the excitement ranked right up there with watching puddles freeze. On the other hand, some friends have a pet turtle, and it never jumps on visitors, scratches furniture or demands to be let in or out.But the Western Painted Turtle hibernates in the winter. That may be sensible, but it wont help promote our ski industry. And besides, do we really want to promote a symbol that represents metropolitan rush-hour gridlock?Nonetheless, well likely get an Official State Reptile. If it were up to me, Id add an Official State Arachnid (the wood tick) and an Official State Parasite (the Giardia lamblia of our mountain streams). Our many visitors should know about these, and making them official might help get the word out. It might also serve if we had an Official State Fungus, Virus, and Lethal Hazard, like rockslide, mudslide, snowslide, tornado or lightning.Obviously, theres plenty of room for future generations of schoolchildren to add to our Official State Symbol list. Maryland, for instance, boasts many items we currently lack: boat, cat, crustacean, dog, drink, horse, sport, team sport, and theater.But even when the list expands, as it doubtless will, theres no guarantee that anyone will pay attention. Otherwise, an Official State Holiday would have been called by its proper name by various official state departments. Ed Quillen is a writer in Salida, Colo., where he produces regular op-ed columns for The Denver Post and publishes Colorado Central, a small regional monthly magazine.


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