Water, forest issues require citizens’ attention
Residents of the Roaring Fork Valley would serve themselves and their communities well by paying attention to two important issues working their way through our state government – one involving water rights and the other forest management.The water rights issue is a compromise on recreational water rights that state Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, and state Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, are working out.In 2001, the state Legislature passed a law that allows communities to own the water rights necesary to support activities like kayaking and rafting in rivers that pass through those communities. The law has spawned a number of lawsuits, in some instances raising the cost of building whitewater kayak parks by hundreds of thousands of dollars.The compromise would place certain limits on recreational organizations and agriculture interests but hopefully will amend the law in a way that keeps disputes from turning ugly, the way one did recently in Gunnison. Efforts to build a whitewater park there ended up costing both supporters and opponents more than $500,000 in legal fees, according to published reports.Agriculture and recreation are important sectors of the economies of Glenwood Springs and Carbondale. People with an interest in the outcome should call Curry and Taylor, and let them know what they think.The other issue involves roadless areas in Colorado’s national forests.Hunting and fishing groups, including Trout Unlimited, have joined traditional environmental groups in the effort to keep approximately 4.4 million acres of pristine forest free of roads. Off-road-vehicle users have joined logging and ranching interests in urging the task force to recommend that the forests be opened up for further development.The Legislature and Gov. Bill Owens appointed a task force last year after President Bush opened 58.5 million acres of protected public lands to potential development. It will make recommendations to the governor, who then is empowered to petition the federal government to preserve some or all of the state’s roadless areas.Given the importance of hunting and fishing to our region’s economy, it’s critical that residents here speak their minds. Owens, Taylor and Curry are as good a place as any to start.Owens’ office: (303) 866-2471. Taylor’s phone numbers are (303) 866-5292 and (970) 879-3600.And Curry can be reached at (303) 866-2945 or (970) 209-5537.
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