‘Sit, sign and skedaddle’ for Ritter | SummitDaily.com

‘Sit, sign and skedaddle’ for Ritter

summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

FRISCO ” A pine beetle bill signed by Gov. Bill Ritter at the Frisco Peninsula Tuesday morning should help local communities move forward with critical wildfire mitigation and forest health projects, said Democratic state Rep. Dan Gibbs, who sponsored the legislation during his first year as a lawmaker.

“It’s crucial we have success, measurable success, that we can show the number of acres treated,” Gibbs said, explaining that accountability will be the key to ensuring long-term funding. While there will always be potential for damaging wildfires, Gibbs said it’s important for communities to do as much as they can to protect schools, hospitals, water supplies and other important facilities.

Ritter’s short stop in Frisco was the first time anyone could recall a governor visiting the local area for a bill-signing. The local community, as well as statewide stakeholder groups, were well-represented at the ceremony, including state and federal forest service officials, Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) executives, industry representatives, along with town council members and county commissioners.

The Frisco Peninsula was Ritter’s first stop on a day-long visit to the West Slope, with other bill-signings set for Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction. Ritter said his instructions from staff were to “sit, sign and skedaddle,” but he gave Gibbs and state Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald both a chance to make remarks on the legislation, deemed critical to West Slope interests.

Calling it a pestilence, Fitz-Gerald said the pine beetle issue is not only important to residents of the hard-hit counties in north central Colorado, but to the entire state, with water supplies and Colorado’s natural heritage at issue.

Along with the pine beetle measure, which provides $1 million in funding, Ritter also signed bills that will help pay for more and better chain-up areas along I-70, and increase fines for truck drivers who flout the chain requirements. Under the measure, CDOT will cough up $2.5 million for new chain-up stations, as well as better lighting and signage.

CDOT Region 1 director Jeff Kullman said it’s not just a one-time fix, but the first step in a sustained effort to address safety and congestion issues along highways in the state. He praised Gibbs for his persistence in finding widespread support for the bill, including buy-in from the trucking industry.

Similarly, Gibbs earned kudos for bringing together hunters, anglers and the oil and gas industry to adopt a progressive measure that should help balance energy development with protection of natural resources in the drilling fields of western Colorado.

“The Colorado Oil and Gas Commission should not be controlled by industry,” Gov. Ritter said, explaining his support of a law that changes the make-up of that critical panel to represent a wider range of interests.

Under the previous structure, industry representatives held three of five seats on commission. Now, oil and gas companies will have three of nine seats.

A companion measure ensures that oil and gas companies consistently apply best management practices.

“We share this land with wildlife … We can drill responsibly in a way that doesn’t have negative impacts,” Gibbs said, praising the industry for coming to the table and working to craft a balanced bill.

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