Motorized users grade lawmakers
Just in time for the upcoming election, the Idaho-based Blue Ribbon Coalition (BRC) has released a congressional scorecard, rating federal lawmakers according to their votes on issues related to public land management, recreation and access.The BRC is a national recreation group representing about 600,000 members, including many motorized users and touts a responsible, balanced and multiple-use approach to managing public lands. Often, the group’s stance is diametrically opposed to positions taken by various conservation groups.The new scorecard is aimed at letting BRC members know how their legislators voted on recreation and access issues, according to executive director Clark Collins. Several Western Republicans, including Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard, scored high for their votes, representing a "pro-access" position, according to Collins. Others lawmakers, including Boulder’s Democratic Congressman, Mark Udall, did not fare so well Udall’s voting record garnered a zero."Most recreationists would rather not be involved in politics. Unfortunately, if we aren’t politically involved, we will lose the trails we enjoy," Collins says. "Just as we must do maintenance on our equipment, we need to maintain our political involvement to preserve our access."The BRC scorecard puts a twist on an idea that’s long been used by green groups like the League of Conservation Voters or the Sierra Club, which both rate lawmakers based on their environmental voting records.On either side of the aisle, it’s possible to rig the outcome by carefully selecting the particular votes that the scorecards are based on. The BRC scorecard, for example, includes a vote on setting fuel efficiency standards for the auto industry. The confirmation vote on Gale Norton’s appointment as Secretary of the Interior was also included, serving as a kind of litmus test, according to Collins."It was tough finding pure recreation interest votes," Collins says, explaining that the fuel efficiency standard vote was included because it affects recreational users of public lands who use tow vehicles to bring snowmobiles, ATVs or horse trailers to the trail head.Collins says several lawmakers who earned high grades, according to the scorecard, are including the results in their campaign material. He singled out Allard, the Colorado Republican who is in a tight race against Democrat Tom Strickland, for a leadership role on access issues."Allard has been a real champion," Collins says, explaining that other votes the BRC used to score senators included the question of whether to permit energy exploration in national monuments. A "yes" vote was considered the pro-access positions, according to Collins, who says the group supports a "balanced energy policy."The House scorecard similarly included the question of whether to permit oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. According to the BRC, a yes vote "would substantially increase domestic oil production, stabilizing gas prices for 4WDs, ATVs and all off-road vehicles."House legislators who support conservation-oriented measures, including the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act, the Conservation and Reinvestment Act, the Red Rock Wilderness Act and the National Forest Roadless Conservation Act, were marked down.Colorado House Republicans Tom Tancredo and Bob Schaffer scored 100 percent on the BRC scorecard. Joel Hefley scored 75 percent, Scott McInnis, 63 percent, while Diana DeGette and Mark Udall, both Democrats, scored zeroes. Republicans Allard and Ben Nighthorse Campbell scored 75 percent and 100 percent respectively.