Andersen: Colorado needs Mark Udall
November 3, 2014
Last week, I ran into Bruce Gordon, chief pilot and founder of EcoFlight. Bruce had spent the day flying Sen. Mark Udall across the Central Rockies to look over our sublime and beautiful landscape to ensure he's doing the best he can to protect it.
Gordon said he was impressed that Udall could name most of the peaks they flew over. Udall was with Outward Bound for many years, and now he's on a mission to climb the "thirteeners." That's no mean feat, even for an experienced mountaineer.
As a political activist and environmental educator, Gordon shared his frustration at the notion that Udall could be turned out of office in Tuesday's election — that his race with Corey Gardner is so inexplicably tight.
"It's a crazy world," Gordon surmised with a sad shake of his head, as if to say that any rational person who cares about Colorado would not hesitate to re-elect Mark Udall.
It's especially crazy when you see what's at stake from the window of a small airplane. The mountains where we live, the clean air and beautiful rivers, the wilderness values that surround us — all are subject to legislative vagaries determined by the shifting winds of the nation's fickle political mood.
Udall was looking at the land from above, but his feet are on solid ground when it comes to conservation ethics and the moral responsibility he feels to conserve our wild places for future generations.
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Udall goes there. He walks the land. He gets it. His opponent in tomorrow's election doesn't share that intimate, heartfelt connection, and that's made obvious by his abysmal voting record.
Gardner has a pitiful 4 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters. Pollution and climate change are non-issues to him, something that future generations will inherit if he's elected.
Udall has a 97 percent rating and has received the League's endorsement. As stated by League president Gene Karpinski: "Sen. Mark Udall knows that preserving Colorado's outdoor heritage is essential to boosting the state's economy and quality of life. That means protecting the unique landscapes that attract tourists from all over the world as well as supporting the state's growing clean energy businesses that create jobs and address climate change that is threatening Colorado's environment and economy."
After spending a couple of days at a national wilderness conference two weeks ago in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I came away with awe for the founders of the wilderness movement in America.
That conference celebrated the 50-year anniversary of the Wilderness act, a bold piece of legislation signed into law by Lyndon Johnson in 1964. The Act established designated and protected Wilderness Areas, which today total about 2 percent of the lower 48 states.
The turnout at the conference made me suddenly aware that the protection of wilderness lands, as a trust for all Americans, is in the hands of a small, dedicated group of hardworking activists who share the original vision of wilderness.
That vision was enunciated by thinkers like Henry Thoreau, John Burroughs, John Muir and Ralph Waldo Emerson — a brain trust of American nature philosophers. Thoreau wrote famously that "in wildness is the preservation of the world," an idea that became a vision for conserving wild lands as a human act of planetary modesty.
Teddy Roosevelt took these men's ideals to heart and became the most important president for the land conservation movement by naming many of our National Parks as sacred American places.
Tuesday's election will influence far more issues than wilderness preservation, and most of the nation's pundits will focus on those broader issues. For me, the land and environment are immanent concerns, which is why I champion Udall.
I confess to being a one-issue columnist for the election, concerned first and foremost with the well-being of the natural world — our air, water and wild places. Udall has integrity in these areas. His opponent has none.
The election is tight, and every vote counts. A vote for Udall is a vote for the future of protected public lands, for our air and water. Ultimately, it's a vote for Colorado.
Paul Andersen's column appears on Monday. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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