In Rifle on Monday, Governor Hickenlooper addressed the impacts of oil & gas development, ranching, and recreation on the diminishing habitat of the greater sage grouse by saying, “It’s hard to say that those activities are the cause of diminishing numbers of sage-grouse.”
He added that he had spoken about the sage-grouse issue with Dan Ashe, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. “It was heated,” Hickenlooper said. “It was one of the rare times I raised my voice. There was a real disagreement on some of the science and some of the issues.”
Well, the Colorado Department of Parks & Wildlife doesn’t have any problem with the science. The Executive Summary of the CO Greater Sage-grouse Conservation Plan states:
[O]il and gas development, housing, and improper grazing are expected to have the greatest impacts on GrSG across their range in Colorado. On a more local basis, surface mining of coal, predation, and the increasing demands for recreation are anticipated to have an impact on this species.
And within the plan itself, in the summary of threats to the sage-grouse population this statement:
In the eastern portion of GrSG range (Colorado’s population), oil and gas development was seen as being the highest threat to GrSG, followed by infrastructure as associated with energy development and urbanization.
So there’s your science, Guv.
But even more exasperating is the article in the PI tying the greater sage-grouse issue to the economy: Rifle hospital district, other tax entities offer sage-grouse comments
Look at James Coombs, the executive director of the Grand River Hospital District in Rifle, come totally unhinged:
“This obviously is a major source of our income and any curtailing of oil and gas production in Garfield County will have devastating effects to our district and bring economic destruction to our community and our ability to provide affordable health care” …
… Since 2003, Coombs noted that revenues from oil and gas activity have helped the hospital district build a new hospital facility, medical offices, conference center and occupational health and safety center in Rifle, and the new medical office building in Battlement Mesa.
“Any future growth of our medical campus and services available for our community in western Garfield County will greatly depend upon the continued production of oil and gas in our county,” Coombs continued in his letter.
“If our budget is diminished as a result of the greater sage-grouse conservation measures, not only will the grouse be harmed, but the people in our district will be irreversibly harmed as well,” he said. “No consideration of this impact was discussed in the DEIS.”
That last paragraph — wow — can we say over the top? Such a heavy load to lay on a bird. No wonder it’s on the verge of extinction. Poor bird is being blamed for stuff that hasn’t even happened yet.
Considering that we have “for profit” health care in this country – NOT Medicare for all – Coombs’ statements are rather chilling, if you ask me. So, the health care industry in Garfield County has been making a fortune because the oil & gas industry is making everyone sick. And I know plenty of families who are sick — and paying health care costs through the nose. I bet you do, too.
No wonder insurance premiums are sky high here, even under the Affordable Care Act. What a racket!
Then there’s District 16 Superintendent Ken Haptenstall’s (Parachute) comments:
Most of our funding comes from local property tax, which includes business property tax derived from oil and gas production within our district and an offset from the state of Colorado” …
… “Over the past four years, we have lost a total of 390 students representing over 30 percent of our population, primarily due to the loss of production in the oil and gas industry,” Haptonstall writes. “We have also cut over 35 percent of our staff because of the loss of students.”
Sounds to me like they have a problem all right. Declining enrollment. But that has been going on for four years. He says so. How can he blame the bird for declining enrollment?
Oh and look at this –
Other signatories on the joint letter approved by the commissioners on Tuesday include the Rio Blanco County commissioners, the American Petroleum Institute, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Mining Association, Colorado Public Lands Council, White River Conservation District, Colorado Woolgrower’s Association, Independent Petroleum Association of America, the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association and other industry groups.
Good grief! Everyone needs to calm down and stop panicking about the economy. Since the dawn of oil & gas drilling it’s been a cyclical business. Lots of ups and downs. That’s not the bird’s fault.
When are they going to learn to deal with it?
They keep putting all their eggs in the oil & gas bucket, like it’s the only thing we have going on here. From the Governor to the collective human energy contained in that list of signatories, you would think someone could come up with economic alternatives and stop picking on the freakin bird.
Rifle Mayor Randy Winkler wrote: “This not only impacts our tax revenues, but the multiplier effect of their families and spouses who work and shop in our city bring much more in sales tax revenues that would be lost to our city should our concerns not be considered in your planning process.”
No. Rifle’s tax revenue is NOT the BLM’s problem — or the bird’s problem. Rifle should consider the impacts on their tax revenues due to the cyclical nature of the oil & gas industry in their own planning process. Leave the bird out of it.
This is SUCH a no brainer. Even a lesser sage grouse could figure it out. The focus should be on solutions – not problems. From junk science hunting to overblown economic impacts, the greater sage-grouse issue is a complete load of crap and a colossal waste of time and money.