Opponents and backers of the proposed San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act may be camped out in front of the Ridgway Community Center starting tomorrow if competing email alerts and website messages are to be believed. U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton will hold a listening session there Friday at 5:30 p.m., but both sides are urging constituents to come early and come often.
“We also need some volunteers to help set up the day of the event. Chairs, tables, that sort of thing. If you can help please let me know,” wrote Ouray County Republican Party Chairman Jim Buske. “Also, if you can come an hour early so we can jam the hall with conservatives, that would be great too!” The Republicans also included a “No More Wilderness” sign on their site, in case there was any confusion about where they stand.
The Telluride-based Sheep Mountain Alliance conservation group delivered a slightly more subtle message about the meeting to supporters of the bill recently reintroduced by Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet: “Come early, space is limited!”
Tipton is a Cortez Republican who so far has not backed the wilderness bill first introduced by his Democratic predecessor, John Salazar, in 2009. In fact, since entering office, Tipton has been quite vocal about rolling back wilderness protections for public lands, blasting Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s Wild Lands policy.
Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio today sent out a press release skewering the Ouray Republicans and calling on Tipton to allow all of his constituents into Friday’s town hall meeting in Ridgway.
“The people of Colorado don’t deserve to have Rep. Tipton manipulate the turnout of a town hall meeting by coordinating with the Republican Party,” Palacio said. “Rep. Tipton was hired to represent all of the people in Colorado’s Third Congressional District, not just those people that agree with his position on an issue.
“So I call on him to make his town hall meetings, which are paid for at taxpayer’s expense, open and accessible to every resident of our district. And I encourage everyone who is concerned about the future of our public lands to attend these meetings so they can speak publicly about their support or concerns regarding the San Juan Wilderness bill.”