Will Shafroth visits Summit
February 14, 2008
FRISCO – More than anything, America needs to develop a long-term view toward both environmental challenges and the country’s role in the world community, 2nd District Congressional candidate Will Shafroth said on a campaign stop last week in Summit County.Shafroth, a prominent conservationist and former executive director of Great Outdoors Colorado, is one of three liberal Democrats competing to replace Rep. Mark Udall in the U.S. House of Representatives. Udall has been Colorado’s 2nd District congressman since 1999, but is now seeking the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Republican Sen. Wayne Allard.Democrats have represented the 2nd district, which includes Summit, Eagle, Grand and Clear Creek counties, along with the city of Boulder and parts of several other Front Range counties, since 1975. Shafroth will face former Colorado state Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald and former Colorado state Board of Education Chairman and multi-millionaire Boulder businessman Jared Polis in the August primary. So far, there is no Republican candidate for the seat.Still an unfamiliar name to many in Summit County, Shafroth stopped by for a brief interview in Frisco while on his way to address local Democrats on Monday. Q: Since you’re all considered fairly liberal, how would you distinguish yourself from your two primary opponents? A: I think the distinguishing feature is why I’m running. And why I’m running is that I have three teenage children – 14, 17 and 19 years old, and I really worry about the future that they face. I worry, because for the very first time in our country’s history, my kids and their generation stand to inherit a place – a planet – that is in worse shape than how we found it. Unless we turn our ship of state pretty dramatically in a whole host of directions, they stand to face much bigger challenges, many fewer opportunities than we had. To me, that seems fairly morally bankrupt and I feel a sense of duty and a sense of responsibility to do whatever I can to make sure that we leave our planet – our country – in as good a shape as we can for them. Q: You’re the only candidate in this race without any experience in elected office. Do you see that as a problem? A: I see that as an asset in this race. You’ve felt the Obama wave and the whole rhetoric around change. Even the Republicans are talking about change in this election cycle. My belief is that if you’re really committed to changing things in Washington, then we have to change the kind of people we send there. It’s not just about saying it, but it’s about actually having different kinds of people elected and serving in Washington, who bring perspectives that aren’t compromised by ties to special interests – that aren’t going to be encumbered by historical allegiances. Q: How would your experience in conservation serve you in Washington? A: The old style politics of partisanship is not going to get the job done, if we want to really solve our problems. We have to figure out how to come together as a country, and how to come together as a congress to solve these tough problems. And in the work that I’ve done – both in conservation on the professional side and as a parent of kids in the public school system for the past 15 years – you don’t care whether people are Republicans or Democrats or who’s conservative or liberal. You care about achieving a common purpose. And, actually, conservation is one of those issues that has the ability to bring people together. It’s not necessarily easy finding that common ground, but it’s essential, because if you start getting partisan and ideological, you’ll never get it done. So, I’ve focused for the last 27 years on building those coalitions around energy and agriculture and open space and wildlife and environmental policy. And I have a real track record of results. It’s not just theoretical, you know. Three hundred thousand acres of land right here in Colorado, and tens or thousands, hundreds of thousands in other parts of the West that I’ve worked on over my career. Q: Some experts say Western Colorado will be under tremendous pressure to provide natural gas and oil in the not too distant future. What’s your opinion on potential natural gas drilling in the Roan Plateau? A: Not surprisingly, I’ve spent my whole life protecting special places, and I feel that there are places on our earth that should be left alone, that should be left untrammeled by the human being. And, whether it be roads or trails or drilling platforms or grazing, we should leave some places in their natural state. It’s arrogant of us to think that we should be able to use everything. We are one of many species on this planet, and we should be able to leave some of those places alone, for their intrinsic value to wildlife habitat. I feel very strongly about that and I don’t believe that the relatively small amount of natural gas that could be extracted from the top of the Roan is going to matter, especially given technology improvements. Q: What do you see as the best solution to the problem of the increasing congestion of the I-70 corridor? A: Instead of the 1970s mentality of just widening the roads to accommodate more vehicles, we should actually figure out ways to look at where do we want to be in the long run, instead of continuing to deal with some of these short-term emergencies. And the only conclusion that you can draw, especially if you look at the future through a carbon lens, is transit – high-speed rail – to get people from the metro area and the airport to mountain valleys. We’ve got to figure out a way to get people out of their cars. I know that’s more expensive, but imagine if we started reversing our investment in our military budget – we’d have so many more choices to invest in the long run – expensive, yet necessary infrastructure investments. Q: Do you see your approach to Iraq as being different from those of your opponents? A: I haven’t been in a public position, so I guess you have to take my word for it, but I’ve been against the war in Iraq from the beginning. I could never get beyond the pre-emptive aspect of our intervention in Iraq. I don’t believe as much as I would want to be out of there tomorrow or next week or next month – that’s not realistic. We can’t physically get our troops out of there and we can’t plan for and execute insurance that there isn’t a complete meltdown in the country. All the time and effort we’ve spent in there to try and stabilize the country would be lost if we picked up and left in 30 days, even if we could, which we can’t. And so I recognize, as much as I hate spending the money, and I hate the loss of life, and I hate that we’re there, I think we have a responsibility to make sure we go out in an orderly fashion.I guess the other thing I would say that may be different is that I really think that we need to look at a broader and a different role for the United States. We need to begin to engage our partners in the international community – European allies and Japan and others, and particularly the Middle Eastern countries around Iraq, who, in many ways, have the greatest stake in the long-term security in Iraq.And that’s a different-I’m not really hearing that from the other candidates. It’s more of a big picture view of our international relations. It’s not just about, “let’s get out of there tomorrow,” but it’s really to put that in the context of our relationships in the world and how we’re going to achieve a lasting peace. Harriet Hamilton can be reached at (970) 668-4651, or at email@example.com.