Udall gets A for environment | SummitDaily.com

Udall gets A for environment

Scott Condon/Pitkin County Correspondent

ASPEN – Rep. Mark Udall, whose 2nd Congressional District includes Summit County, scored a perfect A+ grade in an environmental report card issued by the American Wilderness Coalition

Summit’s former congressman, Rep. Scott McInnis, got an F.

McInnis’ successful shepherding of a bill to allow more logging in national forests to battle the threat of wildfires didn’t earn him many friends among environmentalists.

The “Wilderness Report Card” was released recently by a coalition of environmental groups focused on wilderness issues.

Udall and his fellow Democrat, Diana DeGette of the 1st District in Denver, got the two perfect scores of the Colorado delegation.

Udall was singled out for his efforts to prevent states and special interest groups from using an 1866 mining law to claim that abandoned trails and cow paths were actually “public roads.”

Udall lost that battle. Another congressman’s amendment in a bill allows the mining law, called R.S. 2477, to be used to claim public roads on 400 million acres of public lands. The battle over that law has now shifted to the courts.

Udall and DeGette also scored bonus points for their grades because they provide leadership on environmental issues, not only vote favorably on wilderness causes, according to the wilderness coalition.

Udall spokesman Lawrence Pacheco said the congressman appreciates the recognition as a “good steward of public lands.”

“Congressman Udall has a long tradition of protecting wilderness areas in our nation,” Pacheco said.

Cindy Shogan, vice chairwoman of the American Wilderness Coalition, said the report card is meant to give voters an idea of how incumbents voted on important ecological issues.

“I would hope that it is used by all voters in the upcoming election,” she said.

More than 40 environmental groups gave advice on what issues to examine and procedures to follow when assigning a grade.

McInnis spokesman Blair Jones claimed the grading system has flaws. It fails to recognize ongoing contributions the Republican has made, such as annual funding to buy land to add to Great Sand Dunes National Monument, Jones noted.

Because of those flaws, McInnis’ office says the report card lacks credibility.

Some of the primary issues examined to assign grades to members of the House included gas and oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, fire and logging bills and protection of roadless areas.

The grades for Colorado’s congressional delegation somewhat suspiciously correlated with party affiliation. The five Republicans received an “F”.

U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell eked out a “D-” while Sen. Wayne Allard was given an “F”. Both are Republicans.

“It’s pretty black and white, I guess,” said Shogan, when the correlation between party affiliation and grades was pointed out.

– Scott Condon/

Pitkin County Correspondent

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