Hick­en­looper: Bu­reau­crats bi­ased on species is­sue

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY VALERIE RICHARD­SON

DEN­VER | An ex­am­ple of the ten­sion be­tween Western Democrats and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion sur­faced Mon­day when Colorado Gov. John Hick­en­looper told a ru­ral au­di­ence that Wash­ing­ton bu­reau­crats are push­ing a “slanted ver­sion” of the sage-grouse is­sue to po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion-mak­ers.

Mr. Hick­en­looper, a Demo­crat run­ning for re-elec­tion in 2014, said In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Sally Jewell is re­ceiv­ing onesided ad­vice from staff at the Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice over the is­sue of whether to place the Gun­ni­son sage grouse on the en­dan­gered-species list.

“She has an open mind, right, she’s not well-versed in this is­sue, and she rec­og­nizes that,” said Mr. Hick­en­looper at a town-hall meet­ing at the Mof­fat County Fair­grounds in Craig, Colo. “What she’s hear­ing the first time is from her staff at Fish and Wildlife, and I think she gets a slanted ver­sion.”

He quickly added, “My job is to make sure that she gets — I shouldn’t say a slanted ver­sion on the other side — let’s just say a bet­ter ver­sion — how’s that? — but a bal­anced ver­sion so she hears both sides of the story.”

Those liv­ing in ru­ral Colorado and Utah are alarmed over a Fish and Wildlife pro­posal to list the Gun­ni­son sage grouse and des­ig­nate crit­i­cal habi­tat un­der the En­dan­gered Species Act. The com­ment pe­riod was re­opened Nov. 4 and ends Dec. 2.

Mr. Hick­en­looper said he would in­vite Ms. Jewell to visit a ranch in north­west Colorado so that she could see how ranch­ers are work­ing to pro­tect the species.

Ru­ral res­i­dents worry about the pro­posed list­ing’s im­pact on ranch­ing, farm­ing and oil-and-gas de­vel­op­ment. Sev­eral peo­ple com­ment­ing at the town hall said the agency has failed to take into ac­count the role of preda­tors like coy­otes in re­duc­ing the sage grouse’s num­bers.

Ms. Jewell as­sumed of­fice in April, re­plac­ing for­mer Colorado Sen. Ken­neth L. Salazar, who served as In­te­rior sec­re­tary dur­ing Pres­i­dent Obama’s first term.

“I’ll try to get Sally Jewell — she doesn’t un­der­stand this is­sue, when I talked to her about it, she un­der­stood what I was say­ing, but she said, ‘I can’t com­mit to any­thing yet, I’ve got to hear both sides, I’ve got to work on it,’” said Mr. Hick­en­looper. “Read­ing and hear­ing in Wash­ing­ton is not the same as go­ing some­where and see­ing what some­one’s in­vested over a long pe­riod of time to im­prove habi­tat.”

The Colorado gov­er­nor’s visit to Craig comes as he faces crit­i­cism from ru­ral res­i­dents over his sign­ing of bills ear­lier this year dou­bling the re­new­able-en­ergy man­date on ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties and lim­it­ing ac­cess to firearms and am­mu­ni­tion.

About 200 lo­cals at­tended the town-hall meet­ing, which was broad­cast live by KRAI-FM ra­dio.

Faced with shaky poll num­bers as he en­ters an elec­tion year, the gov­er­nor is hold­ing town-hall meet­ings as part of a “lean in and lis­ten” tour in re­ac­tion to what crit­ics have dubbed “the war on ru­ral Colorado.”

“Some of my se­nior staff said, ‘You know, you’re not real pop­u­lar out there right now. You’d be a lot smarter not to go out there,’” Mr. Hick­en­looper said. “I spent 16 years in the restau­rant busi­ness, and the one thing I learned is that when peo­ple aren’t happy, there’s no ben­e­fit by just sit­ting there, let­ting them be un­happy.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHOTOGRAPHS

Colorado Gov. John Hick­en­looper, a Demo­crat, said In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Sally Jewell is re­ceiv­ing one-sided ad­vice from staff at the Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice over the is­sue of whether to place the Gun­ni­son sage grouse on the en­dan­gered-species list.

Jewell

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