Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs heads to D.C. to testify, start fellowship
This is a big week for Dan Gibbs.
The Summit County commissioner again testified before federal legislators in Washington, D.C., about public land management and then started his Marshall Fellowship the next day.
Gibbs was called by U.S. Rep. Jared Polis to testify Tuesday, Sept. 29, at a hearing of the House Natural Resource Committee’s Subcommittee on Federal Lands called “State, Local, and Tribal Approaches to Forest Management: Lessons for Better Management of Federal Forests.”
He was one of five witnesses called and the only one asked to participate by a Democrat. Polis spokeswoman Kristin Lynch said the representative chose Gibbs based on his work on wildfire mitigation in Summit County and Colorado’s prominent role in forest management.
At the hearing, he denounced Forest Service budget cuts and the practice known as fire borrowing, in which local Forest Service budgets are used to fund wildfire suppression around the country.
He said the White River National Forest budget was $27 million in 2010, and, five years later, its budget had been cut by more than a third, to $15.5 million — even as public visitation increased, and insect infestations increased vulnerability to wildfire.
“So far this year, our local forest unit had over $500,000 transferred from its normal operational budgets to support wildfire response efforts. As a result, we saw reductions in trail maintenance, recreation facility maintenance, forest health work, invasive species control and fish and wildlife habitat restoration,” he said.
The cuts have clear short-term and long-term negative effects on economies, environments and basic infrastructure, he added.
“Despite all our best efforts locally, our ability to survive a catastrophic wildfire rests in the hands of a Congress who in recent years has proven unwilling to fund the basic operational duties of the White River National Forest,” he said. “Federal funds that could have been spent on wildfire prevention are being depleted to fight fires that are burning elsewhere today.”
Then on Wednesday, Sept. 30, Gibbs started his Marshall Memorial Fellowship.
The prestigious fellowship encourages upcoming leaders from Europe and the United States to gain understanding of global diplomacy. Fellows must be nominated by a previous fellow, younger than 40 and recognized as an emerging leader.
After a few days in D.C., Gibbs’ group of fellows will travel through Europe for 24 days.
He formerly served as a state representative and senator as well as a staffer for former U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, and he will share his experiences with state and local politics with other countries as well as bring what he learns from them to Summit.
In mid-September, Gibbs said he will visit Belgium, Germany, Portugal, Bulgaria and France and spend most days in meetings with government and community leaders.
He must set up one meeting in each city for his group of fellows, and he said he chose people with similar backgrounds to him who could share insights on issues like transportation and tourism. Gibbs is the current chair of the I-70 Coalition.
He has become more familiar with current international affairs through calls and readings over the last few months and learned about cultural differences through coordinating with foreign officials. For example, he said, the head of transportation for a Bulgarian city formally requested his resume, biography and questions before agreeing to a meeting.
People can follow his fellowship journey through social media including Facebook (Dan Gibbs) and Twitter (@DanGibbs16).
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