Mr. Gibbs goes to Washington | SummitDaily.com

Mr. Gibbs goes to Washington

NICOLE FORMOSAsummit daily news

Summit Daily/Mark Fox

DENVER – A bill proposed by Rep. Dan Gibbs to minimize the impacts of oil and gas drilling on wildlife is taking the Silverthorne legislator from the state capital to the nation’s capital.The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources invited the freshman Democrat to testify in a hearing Tuesday titled “Access Denied: The Growing Conflict Between Fishing, Hunting and Energy Development on Federal Lands.” “It seems like just yesterday my role for Congressman Udall was simply to give tours of the capital. Here I am not too many years later testifying before Congress. I’m very, very excited,” said Gibbs, who’s been busy responding to e-mails from former colleagues Back East wondering if the Dan Gibbs scheduled to testify at a Congressional hearing is the same Dan Gibbs they used to work with.Gibbs’ ticket was punched because of success he has seen with House Bill 1298, which would require more coooperation from state commissions and the state Division of Wildlife to protect wildlife from oil and gas development. It has garnered support from more than 50 sportsmen organizations, as well as the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and the Colorado Petroleum Association. The House Appropriations Committee moved the bill to the House floor on Friday morning in a unanimous vote. Gibbs, an avid outdoorsman himself, said he is honored to testify before the full, 49-member Natural Resources committee, which includes his former boss Congressman Mark Udall, D-Colorado.The opportunity to travel to D.C., where Gibbs lived from 2000 to 2003 while working for Udall, has inevitably caused him to reflect on the strides in his career since then. The hearing is meant to be a forum for “the folks who want to ensure that public lands continue to provide hunting and fishing opportunities for future generations,” Committee Chairman Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-West Virginia, wrote via e-mail.During his testimony, Gibbs said he plans to touch on the importance of hunting and fishing in Colorado – a $2 billion industry in the state – and explain the details of his bill, dubbed the Colorado Wildlife and Habitat Stewardship Act of 2007.As soon as voters elected Gibbs to the state Legislature last November, he began talking with sportsmen and representatives from the oil and gas industry in an attempt to find common ground on environmental concerns linked to drilling.The big players in Colorado’s oil industry, like EnCana Corp. and Williams Production Co., were willing to sit at the table from the beginning, he said.

Gibbs’ ticket was punched because of success he has seen with House Bill 1298, which would require more coooperation from state commissions and the state Division of Wildlife to protect wildlife from oil and gas development. It has garnered support from more than 50 sportsmen organizations, as well as the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and the Colorado Petroleum Association. The House Appropriations Committee moved the bill to the House floor on Friday morning in a unanimous vote. Gibbs, an avid outdoorsman himself, said he is honored to testify before the full, 49-member Natural Resources committee, which includes his former boss Congressman Mark Udall, D-Colorado.The opportunity to travel to D.C., where Gibbs lived from 2000 to 2003 while working for Udall, has inevitably caused him to reflect on the strides in his career since then. The hearing is meant to be a forum for “the folks who want to ensure that public lands continue to provide hunting and fishing opportunities for future generations,” Committee Chairman Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-West Virginia, wrote via e-mail.

During his testimony, Gibbs said he plans to touch on the importance of hunting and fishing in Colorado – a $2 billion industry in the state – and explain the details of his bill, dubbed the Colorado Wildlife and Habitat Stewardship Act of 2007.As soon as voters elected Gibbs to the state Legislature last November, he began talking with sportsmen and representatives from the oil and gas industry in an attempt to find common ground on environmental concerns linked to drilling.The big players in Colorado’s oil industry, like EnCana Corp. and Williams Production Co., were willing to sit at the table from the beginning, he said.

“I never wanted the oil and gas industry to be surprised by this because I do think it’s in their best interest in many ways to be stewards of our lands,” he said.Colorado issued 5,904 drilling permits last year, more than double the number of the previous two years, and according to Gibbs, elk herds located near drilling operations are moving away, which affects premier hunting areas.On the other hand, the oil and gas industry plays an important role in the state’s economy, employing 60,000 to 70,000 people, Gibbs said.Gibbs’ House Bill 1298 encourages the oil and gas industry to adopt best management practices, such as utilizing directional drilling and sharing roads among companies to lessen the impact on the land.

Gibbs said he thinks Washington took notice of his bill because of the cooperation between both sides of the issue. While he doesn’t know whether the hearing will lead to similar legislation on a federal level, he does believe a lot of the folks in the country are looking west for answers, particularly with land-use issues.”The West has become the utopian of looking at the big picture of American politics,” Gibbs said, noting the Democratic National Convention in Denver in 2008. “… I think a lot of Western legislators are known to be problem solvers.” Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-4629, or at nformosa@summitdaily.com.