Tipton, one of Eagle County’s congressional representatives, seeks new term | VailDaily.com

Tipton, one of Eagle County’s congressional representatives, seeks new term

Scott Tipton

Editor's note: Find more election coverage at http://www.vaildaily.com/election.

EAGLE COUNTY — Scott Tipton represents the geographically largest district in Congress. Wherever you are in the district, it's a long way to Washington, D.C.

Tipton, a Republican from Cortez, represents Colorado's 3rd Congressional District. First elected in 2010, he's running this year for a fifth term.

Tipton grew up in Cortez, "about as far as you can be from Denver and still be Colorado," he said. After college, he started Mesa Verde Indian Pottery, working with members of the Ute tribe. After running the business for 30 years, tribe members bought the building in Cortez and continue to operate the company.

After a stint in the Colorado Legislature — he was elected in 2008 and retired in 2010 — Tipton decided to run for higher office to help stem what he saw as federal policies that hinder small businesses.

"I wanted to contribute what I could," he said, adding he wanted his children to have the same opportunities he had.

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In a phone interview from Alamosa, Tipton talked a bit about the 3rd District. The district covers all of Western Colorado, as well as the San Luis Valley and into Pueblo County.

Aside from its sheer size, Tipton said he also believes the district might be the most scenic, including alpine terrain, high deserts and agricultural land.

Frequent trips home

The landscape — and work, of course — brings Tipton back to the district every weekend.

But, from helping a constituent with a bureaucratic foul-up to passing legislation, getting work done at the federal level is complicated. Still, Tipton said, he's proud of his accomplishments over the years.

At the top of that list is working with veterans in the district. Tipton said he and his staff have successfully resolved 3,000 cases for veterans. He also added language to federal legislation that enables veterans to get care more quickly, allowing them to visit local doctors and hospitals.

"It lets veterans get access (to care) closer to home," he said.

Tipton said he's also successfully pushed the U.S. Forest Service to back off from a rule that would have required ski area operators, ranchers and others who do business on federal land to sign over water rights.

Those rights are private property in Colorado and sometimes used as collateral.

"That's been positive for the (affected) communities," Tipton said.

The Forest Service action is part of Tipton's efforts to reduce over-use of federal regulations.

"I'm not anti-regulation," he said. "I look at (regulation) in a business sense."

Tipton serves on a small business committee in Congress. That committee learned of a proposed rule that was going to regulate children working on family farms. The rule proposed that children younger than 16 couldn't work on hay stacks more than 6 feet high, couldn't drive a motor vehicle, even on the family farm, and couldn't handle adult livestock.

Apart from the fact that farm kids younger than that have long worked on tall hay stacks and driven vehicles to and from fields, Tipton added that the livestock-handling rule would essentially ban large-animal projects for young kids in 4-H Club.

Help for public lands

The third district's size and location also means it has thousands of square miles of public lands.

Tipton bristles at charges he's working on ways to sell off or transfer public lands to the states.

"Show me the bill (that authorizes transfers or sales)," he said. In fact, he said, he sponsored legislation that expanded wilderness protection in the Hermosa Creek area near Durango.

Tipton said he's been working on forest health issues and has helped include provisions allowing vegetation cleanup around power lines and in the zones between communities and public land called the "wildland/urban interface."

Another bill, allowing small hydroelectric installations, saw its first use in Montrose County.

That's a form of economic development, something he said much of the district needs.

"Colorado has two economies," he said. The Front Range between Colorado Springs and Fort Collins has done well, as have a number of resort areas. But the San Luis Valley, Pueblo and rural areas aren't sharing that prosperity.

"We have to create job opportunities," he said, adding that finding ways to expand broadband internet access to rural areas is a priority.

If re-elected, Tipton said he wants to work on ways to protect the state's water, especially considering the lingering drought in the Mountain West.

And, he said, he'll keep returning to the district every weekend. Driving the district is a special experience, he said.

"If you painted this exactly how it looks, it wouldn't seem real," he said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2930.