Emperor Bill Owens and the roadless rule | VailDaily.com
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Emperor Bill Owens and the roadless rule

Tom Boyd

I couldn’t help playing a little song in my head when Gov. Bill Owens walked into the room the other day.It goes like this: “Bah bah bah, bom bah bom, bom bah bom.”In case you can’t tell what that is, it’s the musical score from Star Wars, the theme music for the dark side, played whenever Darth Vader or The Emperor come onto the scene.To be fair to Owens, the song isn’t meant to indicate any bias. It seems to play in my head any time I’m meeting with a politician, Democrat or Republican, state or national, county or municipal. Keeps me on my toes, so to speak.Owens seemed to sense my internal musical score.”Is everyone in a good mood today, or are you guys feeling cynical?” he asked the group of reporters gathered at the Cascade Club June 6.”Cynical IS a good mood,” said Cliff Thompson, reporter for the Vail Daily.Then Owens did what he does best: he made a water grab. As he reached for the pitcher and poured himself a glass, Thompson pointed out that he had been in the room two minutes and was already reaching for West Slope water.Not a good start for the Governor.Still, he won me over with news that he had just dealt a blow to Colorado’s Homeowners Associations, who will no longer be allowed to outlaw xeriscaping, or make other such ridiculous, tyrannical rulings.The Governor also laid out his general philosophy on TABOR very well, and encouraged all our readers to vote “yes” on proposed changes to the law this November.All was well almost chummy until the Governor began to answer a few of my questions about Bill Clinton’s roadless rule and the Bush Administration’s reluctance to put the plan into action.He blamed Clinton for implementing the plan in a hurried way, without public input, in his final days in office in January of 2001. I’ve heard the argument before. Opponents of the roadless rule claim Clinton left the roadless rule as a white elephant gift for Mr. Bush.Unfortunately for those who see our public land purely as an exploitable resource, not an end-in-itself, the rap on Clinton’s roadless rule isn’t true.Plenty of people had input in the decision, beginning in October of 1999.In fact, according to the Federal Register of Jan 12, 2001, more than 16,000 people commented during 187 meetings during the scoping process. After a draft plan was written up in May of 2000, about 23,000 people attended 430 meetings across the country. In total, including written responses to the plan, 1.8 million people gave input the second-largest collection of responses ever received by the Department of the Interior.The Forest Service reports that about 90 percent of the responses were in favor of creating 58.5 million acres of roadless areas.Owens looked me in the eye and told me that there hadn’t been enough public input to the plan, and that he was going to remedy the situation.Huh?The recently-implemented Bush plan now calls on governors to make recommendations to the federal Secretary of Agriculture as to what should be made roadless, and where. Owens, in his valiant effort to hear public opinion, signed a bill June 8 which creates a 13-member roadless rule board. The board will then hear from the public (again), and will then make a suggestion to the Governor. The Governor will then make a suggestion to the feds, who will, at that point, do whatever they wish.All this is dependent on funding from the feds, who would pay for this board and all the people on it.But it’s a waste of money.The people have already spoken. They want the roadless rule implemented and enforced. Why are we getting this runaround?I have my guesses.As Owens explained all this to me, the volume on my internal stereo slowly turned-up. The score from Star Wars must have influenced me, because my imagination (which I can never seem to control) produced a picture of Owens hooded in dark-velvet, lower lip quivering, speaking in the voice of The Emperor.”You are mistaken, young reporter,” I swear I heard him say.No Gov. Owens, it is you who are mistaken: There are 640,000 acres of wilderness in our White River National Forest that deserve protection. The argument is simple: human beings must constrain themselves on behalf of other creatures and all our future generations.Gov. Owens, you are our representative. Dissolve your 13-member board before it starts, and send a letter to Washington recommending that every square inch of proposed roadless area in Colorado be protected. VTTom Boyd can be reached for comment at tboyd@vailtrail.com.


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