Vail Daily editorial: Throwing a plate of legislative spaghetti
August 11, 2015
You may not have heard about this yet, but Rep. Diana DeGette, the Democrat who represents Denver in the U.S. House of Representatives, last week unveiled yet another wilderness bill. This marks the 16th time since 1999 DeGette has introduced a sprawling bill to slap wilderness protection on hundreds of thousands of acres of public land in Colorado.
The debate on the fine points of a proposal to limit public access to 32 areas over 715,000 acres of federal land in the state will probably be brief, and the bill is likely to meet the same fate of DeGette's previous 15 proposals — failure.
The only reason DeGette's bill is this week's topic is in comparison with Rep. Jared Polis' Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act. While most of the population in Polis' district is in the Boulder and Fort Collins areas, he represents all of Summit County and roughly the eastern third of Eagle County. That's where all the land is located in his latest proposal.
As opposed to DeGette, who seems to throw much the same plate of legislative spaghetti at the wall every year, Polis deserves credit for actually working to earn the backing of those he represents. Polis and his staff members have held any number of public meetings and worked diligently with local governments and special districts where new wilderness would actually be to drum up support for the bill. That work has resulted in a bill, submitted in May, that would put wilderness protection on not quite 40,000 acres.
The original proposal was much larger but has been pared down in an effort to gain favor with as many user groups and public officials as possible.
There are still those who oppose the proposal. Others believe the plan should cover much more public land. But the process itself is praiseworthy.
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While we hear regularly from Polis and his staff, we found out about DeGette's bill the old-fashioned way — via a statement from her office. The public statement about the bill itself was done with a telephone conference call.
All politicians like making a splash. In this case, though, DeGette's big bill with virtually no chance of passage will — and should — cause barely a ripple.