A community forum hosted by Rep. Scott Tipton in Delta Sept. 5 drew 100 people and featured lots of criticism aimed at the federal government. Tipton and his questioners made it clear they are not happy with policies of the federal government and its agencies.
Tipton started the ball rolling with an opening statement touting his legislative achievements, and in which he hit the feds on two issues: water rights and public forest management.
The public's forest lands are "overgrown" from 100 years of mismanagement, he said. "Why haven't we been timbering that?" Tipton asked. Forest lands are choked with dead wood that makes fires worse, he noted. Tipton used the occasion to mention the "Healthy Forests Act of 2013" which he supports, and which he said would give local governments a voice in decisions on public forest management within their jurisdictions.
A questioner asked the congressman about the large number of public travel routes being blocked off by the U.S. Forest Service as a result of the GMUG's 2005 travel management plan. The closures make firefighting more difficult and dangerous, the constituent said.
Tipton replied, "I hear (public lands) access complaints from all over the Western Slope." He mocked the forest agency's computer models for fighting forest fires, saying they are the first thing tossed out when a real fire situation erupts.
There is so much dead standing and downed timber in the forests that "fires now burn downhill, something that hasn't happened before," Tipton said. The situation is the fault of "poor management" by the Forest Service and also by the Bureau of Land Management, he said.
On the topic of water, the congressman touched on an emotional local issue saying the West's water rights have to be protected from appropriation by the federal government. We don't need Washington getting involved in water rights, he said.
Asked how the Western Slope can avert or avoid an endangered species listing of the Gunnison sage grouse, Tipton criticized federal agencies for their "broad brush" approach to the issue. A proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would declare one-third of Dolores County as "critical habitat" for the bird, and it would bring 1.7 million acres of public and private lands under increased federal regulation.
Tipton praised local efforts to improve habitat for the bird. But federal policies are ineffective, he said, noting current policy is "conflicted" and even encourages predation of species that are listed as endangered.
The federal government's immigration reform efforts are falling far short of dealing with the problem of illegal immigration, Tipton was told. Farm labor is essential to local agriculture production. One valley producer told Tipton, "Without immigration reform, agriculture in the valley as we know it will pass on. It is imperative that we do it."
Other constituents probed Tipton on border security, the U.S. government's fear of criticizing Mexico for its own failed policies, and on Tipton's proposed "red card" immigration idea.
Tipton replied that the U.S. Senate bill on immigration reform is "over arching" and would be ineffective. There are four bills on the issue working through the U.S. House of Representatives, he said.
"We need to thoughtfully think through the issue, and Congress needs to do its job and solve it instead of passing it off to bureaucrats to write regulations. Congress needs to do the job it was elected to do. Let's fix it," he said.
On the issue of the Common Core school curriculum, Tipton told his audience to "call your (U.S.) senators." Common core is another national policy that "won't work," he said. Local control is the answer, he said.
A questioner asked Tipton why Americans were being "stuck with Obamacare." He replied that Obamacare has failed in its two main goals: increasing access to health care and making it affordable. He criticized the administration for 22,000 pages of regulations the law has spawned and for the executive exemptions that have been granted. "It's a bad piece of legislation," he said.
However, when Tipton's final questioner asked if he supported de-funding Obamacare, Tipton stalled. "When a federal program is created, it never goes away," he said. "If we replace it we have effectively de-funded it."
Tipton's reply was political. If the Democrat-controlled Senate refuses to act on a government funding bill from the Republican- controlled House that eliminates money for Obamacare, Republicans fear being blamed again for shutting down the government.
After Tipton had spent the evening in Delta pointedly criticizing the Democratic Senate for ignoring bills from the Republican U.S. House and letting them "stack up like cord wood on Harry Reid's doorstep," he said the Republican House should work with the Democratic Senate on alternatives to Obamacare rather than de-funding it.blog comments powered by Disqus