Colorado Gov. candidate Jared Polis says Basalt gun range safer alternative | VailDaily.com

Colorado Gov. candidate Jared Polis says Basalt gun range safer alternative

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times

U.S. Rep Jared Polis, the democratic nominee in the Colorado gubernatorial race, speaks before a crowd of roughly 75 individuals outside of Market Street Kitchen at the Willits in Basalt on Friday.

A safe shooting range is a better alternative than individuals using firearms in the woods for target practice, Democratic gubernatorial nominee and Congressman Jared Polis said Friday before a gathering of roughly 75 people in Basalt.

Responding to a question from resident Stacey Craft, who is cosponsoring a petition drive to close the firing range, Polis said he supports "safe shooting as opposed to distributed ranges."

"We need to do a better job of making sure we have shooting ranges that are used as a tool to reduce sometimes this redistributed shooting in our forests," he said, noting it "poses a public safety risk and also forest fires."

Roaring Fork Valley residents, chiefly those in Basalt, have been debating the future of the shooting range, located at the Basalt State Wildlife Area, ever since the Lake Christine Fire ignited July 3.

Authorities say the fire started when a man and woman were illegally firing tracer rounds at the range. Tracer rounds are prohibited at all state-run shooting ranges, and the two individuals also fired them during Stage 2 fire restrictions, which remain in place in Pitkin County. The two suspects — Richard Karl Miller, 23, and Allison Sarah Marcus, 22 — face felony arson charges in Eagle County.

With the fire-scorched mountainside in the background, the Boulder Democrat said, "What a hard fire season it has been. I think with the drier weather and climate change, we need to invest even more in fire prevention and mitigation."

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The outdoor shooting range remains closed, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife will hold public meetings about its future at 6 p.m. Aug. 21 and Aug. 27 at Basalt High School. Craft, however, said CPW already has determined it will re-open the range, a claim that could not immediately be confirmed Friday. Last week, Perry Will, the agency's wildlife manager for area 8, told The Aspen Times that "basically, every option is open."

Polis' stump speech and question-and-answer session was held outside of Market Street Kitchen and came hours before the Grand Junction-based Club 20 said it would not allow Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne to fill in for Polis in a debate with Republican nominee Walker Stapleton scheduled Sept. 8.

"We expect the next potential governor of Colorado to represent all of Colorado and campaign vigorously throughout the state to learn the issues impacting rural communities," Cindy Dozier, Club 20's board chair, said in a statement. "Congressman Polis' decision not to honor the citizens of Western Colorado by participating in our debates is simply outrageous, and we continue to ask for his reconsideration."

Prior to speaking to the Basalt crowd, Polis said he did not want to face Stapleton in a debate that charges admission to attend.

"We challenged Walker Stapleton to 13 debates and he accepted six," he said.

Meanwhile, Polis rarely mentioned Friday the names of Stapleton or President Trump, but his inferences to them were clear. Polis' political agenda is at odds with the Republican party as well as the Trump administration's privatizing of public lands, its approach toward immigration and its position on abortion, among other issues.

"I can work with President Trump if they're serious about our infrastructure," Polis said, adding "but we also need a governor who is not beholden to President Trump or any president, and really puts Colorado first."

rcarroll@aspentimes.com