Robin’s column in The Daily Sentinel on Sept. 15, 2019, followed her testimony in D.C. Read it here:
On Tuesday, September 10, the House Committee on Natural Resources held an oversight hearing to discuss the relocation of the BLM Headquarter titled, “BLM Disorganization: Examining the Proposed Reorganization and Relocation of the Bureau of Land Management Headquarters to Grand Junction, Colorado.” Robin Brown, Executive Director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership testified in favor of moving the headquarters location to Grand Junction. The following is an excerpt from her testimony.
“Mesa County, where I reside, is 76% public lands. Our economy depends on that land and both the above ground and below ground natural resources that come from our public lands.
In Grand Junction, we believe that we can do it all on public lands in a way that both protects and conserves the very lands we rely on for a healthy economy. Colorado has the toughest oil and gas regulations in the country and the industry has responded using technology to severely reduce emissions while increasing production. Today we are able to extract fossil fuels in a safer and cleaner way reducing the impact on climate change, while also providing high paying jobs and direct economic impact to our rural communities.
With all of that energy production going on, we are also an outdoor recreation mecca. From my back door, I can hike in a national monument, mountain bike on world class single-track trails, kayak the Colorado river, or just sit on my back porch and look at the abundant wildlife that wanders through- whether it’s deer, bighorn sheep, pheasant, quail, mountain lions or bear. If I hop into my car, I can hunt big game, fish, snowmobile, Nordic or downhill ski, within a 40 mile drive from my home. Colorado has the best public land hunting in the country and people travel from all over the world to take advantage of it.
It’s not unusual to run across wild horses in Mesa County. They roam the desert area north of Grand Junction known as the Bookcliffs. Just south of those desert lands are vast rangelands where local ranching families run cattle for beef production, which is Colorado’s number one ag export. National Conservation Areas? We’ve got three. Wilderness Study areas? Check.
Grand Junction is home to Colorado Mesa University (CMU) which has a current enrollment of 11,000 students.
Within CMU, the Natural Resource Center works with Federal, State and local governments to adopt policies that support and promote the value of multiple use and sustained yield.
The Unconventional Energy Center conducts research projects that help energy producers understand regulatory predictability and reduce both operating costs and impacts on the environment. This institute positions Grand Junction as the epicenter of energy innovation.
Both of these institutes work closely with our regional BLM office as they study, research and implement land use policies and procedures.
In other words, every single thing that the BLM does can be researched, studied and put into practice in Mesa County, Colorado.
The argument against moving the headquarters is based on a lack of trust. Well I wouldn’t trust somebody I’d never met either. So I invite you all out to Grand Junction to meet the people who worry you so much.
I’d introduce you to Janie Van Winkle. Janie is a second generation beef rancher that grazes her cattle on public lands. Janie is the best conservationist I know because as a rancher, she understands that the lands that she drives her cattle over year after year have to remain healthy in order for her herds to remain healthy long after she’s gone.
I’d introduce you to Scott Winans. Scott is the president of the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Association- a non-profit, primarily all volunteer organization that builds, maintains and advocates for mountain bike trails all over western Colorado. There is no better advocacy group for the proper maintenance and long-term health of our trail system. Try riding your bike on trails after it rains or taking a short cut where there is no trail and you will get a quick and fierce explanation of proper trail etiquette, as you would deserve.
I’d introduce you to Quint Shear- a 5th generation Coloradoan and landman who could tour you through a number of well pads on the Grand Mesa that intertwine in and out of his favorite hunting and hiking grounds. With proper planning, these industries can and already do coexist.
The idea that BLM leadership shouldn’t be influenced by the communities that live, work and play on our public lands is misguided. It tells me that you don’t trust Janie, or Scott or Quint or people like us from rural communities all over the west to advocate for the highest and best use of our public lands. It also tells me that you don’t trust your own leadership to know the difference between those with good intentions and those with bad. And that’s ironic because last year in Washington, DC, there were 11,654 registered lobbyists that spent $3.46 Billion influencing you. So I don’t quite see why it’s okay to be influenced by more lobbyists than most of these communities have in total population with more money than all of our annual budgets combined, but not okay to be influenced by the communities who know, love and protect our public lands best because they live, work and play on those lands every single day- sometimes over multiple generations.
Congressmen and women, on behalf of the people of Colorful Colorado, on behalf of Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner, on behalf of Congressman Scott Tipton and on behalf of Governor Jared Polis, I encourage you to support the move of the BLM headquarters to Grand Junction, Colorado- a place where there is actually BLM land. “