Soap Box

Walking the climate-change talk
02/06/2020
To the editor,
Everyone who is a human-caused global warming believer should pay attention to what Greta Thunberg said when she met with the billionaires and ruling elites at Davos on Jan. 21. She said net-zero carbon emission is not enough – that even that low level will destroy the Earth. Greta believes that we must immediately (in just the next few years) change to ZERO carbon emission.
So, to all of you who believe in human-caused global warming, you yourself have to change to zero carbon emissions. Telling your congresspersons and senators to pass laws mandating this to make everyone else change isn’t going to work.
It’s time, today, for you yourself, to turn off your propane. Turn off your electricity (unless yours is from nuclear or hydro-electric power, no carbon there), and park your car or truck for the last time. Stop cutting trees and burning wood in the stove. Eat whatever meat you have on hand for the last time, then vegan forever.
You yourself should do this now. Today. If you do not, then you have to admit that you do not truly believe Greta, that you do not believe in human-caused global warming.
– Pat Reyes, Durango
Livestock insurance a reasonable approach
02/06/2020
To the editor,
With wolf reintroduction on the Colorado ballot for 2020, cattle ranchers and livestock owners have been up in arms. Wolves were hunted to extinction in Colorado in the 1940s, largely at the hands of ranchers seeking to protect their livestock. Understandably, they worry that the reintroduction of wolves could mean the loss of profit and animal lives. Most ranchers argue that wolves should not be reintroduced, or that losses due to reintroduction should be covered by the government.
Historically, insurance has offered individuals protection from random, low frequency events, such as fires, earthquakes and floods. In this model of insurance, many people join a pool of covered individuals each paying into a pot of money that is used to reimburse a covered member who suffers a loss. Although insurance can be costly, it is undertaken regularly by individuals who understand the risks of living on planet Earth, where humanity is a relatively new species. However, many ranchers view the exposure to natural predators, and therefore needing to protect the value of their livestock with insurance, as an unjust burden.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, approximately only one cow out of every 44,853 is killed by wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, where the vast majority of wolves in the West live. Statistically, individuals are significantly more likely to be affected by a natural disaster than ranchers are to lose an animal to wild predation. 
The question is, why do ranchers feel that they should not have to respond as all other individuals and businesses in the face of the random, low frequency and uncontrollable natural forces by obtaining insurance? Already, the public funds cattle ranchers through subsidies including grazing rates on public lands, as well as publicly provided range improvements. Why are the priorities of livestock, which are not native to these lands, placed above the creatures that have lived here harmoniously long before our arrival? 
The State of Colorado has paid dearly for the slaughter and extinction of wolf populations. Without ample predators, entire ecosystems begin to degrade. In the absence of wolves, Colorado elk populations have increased rapidly, causing overgrazing, water contamination and soil erosion, among other problems. This negatively affects not only every species in our Colorado ecosystems, but also livestock and livestock owners, who depend on healthy, thriving land. 
In addition to these priceless losses, should taxpayers also be held responsible for covering rancher’s losses when nature runs its course?
– Jamie Blatter, Durango 
A world without Trump
02/06/2020
To the editor,
I recently heard a question posed of what would happen if the Senate removed the current occupant of the White House. This is my answer to Sen. Cory Gardner: We would begin to 1) free babies from cages; 2) give all children in America access to good nutrition and education; 3) reduce maternal mortality by denying religious freedom to anyone who denies religious freedom and access to health care for women; 4) treat our air, water and soil with a respect that allows our climate to stabilize as much as possible to prevent the current state of nations on the run; and 5) work on an economic system that benefits all, not so few.
– Stephanie Johnson, Durango
Five Super Bowl LIV takeaways
02/06/2020
To the editor,
Bill Murray has used up all the funny left.
That kid sure can run.
Yes, half time can be both sex drenched and empowering.
Patrick Mahomes is never, ever, out of the game.
President Trump thinks the Kansas City Chiefs play in Kansas.
– john van becay,
via e-mail
Mending our urban-rural fences
01/30/2020

To the editor,

After a couple of weeks celebrating our Western heritage at the National Western Stock Show, hobnobbing with steers in the Brown Palace Hotel during their high tea, enjoying dinner with members of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, and attending the Voices for Rural Colorado gathering at the Governor’s mansion, it’s hard not to think about the issues facing the rural parts of our state.

Though rural Colorado encompasses the majority of land in Colorado, its representation is only 20 percent of the Legislature. We need to work together to be a strong voice, with focused advocacy.

Our issues differ wildly from those on the urban Front Range, and the rural issues of the Western Slope differ from those on the Eastern Slope. But we continue to find bipartisan ground to identify and examine the questions facing us.

A few of my early bills are addressing some of those issues.

One bill I am sponsoring with Sen. Don Coram from Montrose focuses on rural economic development. Senate Bill 054 establishes a fund to provide matching grants from non-governmental sources to businesses in their very early stages. The businesses must be in rural areas, employ people in the area and have the potential to export goods or services outside the area.

We don’t envision these rural businesses to depend solely on rural support for their income.

Many rural parts of the state are still facing the economic hardships induced by lower-than-average population, wages, employment and total property values. Providing a kickstart and requiring the matching funds encourages growth and innovation, while stimulating the private sector. We want to encourage local business sustainability in areas of the state that truly need the employment opportunities and increased tax base.

A second bill, House Bill 1115, will provide a tax exemption for the farmers and ranchers who, out of necessity, need to continuously buy fencing material. I am sponsoring this bill with Sen. Coram and Rep. Marc Catlin, also from Southwest Colorado.

The fencing material is a necessary expenditure for those making a living off crop production and animal husbandry in Colorado.

“Good fences make good neighbors,” wrote poet Robert Frost, but they are expensive. If we can give these farmers just a little help, it may keep their costs down and production up.

We are working with stakeholders to decide if this should be a state income tax exemption only, permitting the local taxing districts to decide for themselves if they want to participate.

I am running a third bill with Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg from northeastern Colorado. Current state law allows school board members to participate in board meetings electronically. In rural areas, where members are often prevented from attending because of bad weather, sick animals or long days at work, the electronic participation has helped move board meetings forward and increased robust participation.

Tim Taplin, a member of both the Ridgway School Board and Colorado Association of School Boards, brought this to my attention.

Unfortunately, though members can vote electronically, they cannot contribute to the number of members required for a quorum. This bill (which doesn’t have a number yet) would add a simple fix. While members are participating and voting electronically, their presence will also be counted as part of the required quorum, keeping the gears of responsible government turning.

All members will have access to materials distributed during the board meeting. The choice to add any restrictions is in the hands of the local school board.

During the two-day Voices of Rural Colorado Conference in Denver last week, participants discussed legislation and regional issues, and listening to a wide variety of cabinet members, legislators, department heads and business leaders.

Participants represented the 59 rural and frontier counties of Colorado’s 64 and were hosted by Club 20 from the Western Slope, Action 22 from Southern Colorado and Pro 15 from Northeast Colorado. It was a great way to have representatives of all the rural areas of the state band together to share a unified voice and educate our urban counterparts.

It is my honor to represent the people of District 59 and rural Colorado, and be one of their voices in the State Legislature. I am here to listen to your concerns as we move through this legislative season together.

– Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango