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Copyright 2000 The Denver Post Corporation  
The Denver Post

April 29, 2000 Saturday 2D EDITION


LENGTH: 700 words

HEADLINE: Protecting our environment


GRAND JUNCTION - Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell persistently  presents himself as a fair-minded, well-informed legislator who  seeks to balance contentious, national forest management issues.

In a recent Post column, Campbell wrote: 'Hopefully it (the  extended review process for the White River National Forest Plan)  will give everyone an opportunity to step back, tone down the  innuendo and rhetoric and find ways to build consensus on a  forest-management plan that respects and addresses the biological  needs as equally as the needs of those who responsibly use the  resources of our national forests.'

Unfortunately for Coloradans, this reasonable approach to  forest conservation seems to be little more than a congenial mask  that Campbell wears to deceive the public while he casts his vote  in the Senate to promote timber, mining and other development of  public lands.

When the Department of Interior last year attempted to limit  mine-waste dumping on BLM lands to one 20-acre millsite per claim  (a reasonable compromise between biological and commercial needs),  Campbell voted in support of an amendment to an appropriations  bill that allowed unlimited mine-waste dumping. Also in 1999,  Campbell voted for an amendment that would have exempted  coal-mining operations from the Clean Water Act and from the  Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. While purporting to support a balanced approach to managing the  resources of our national forests, Campbell voted against an  amendment which would have cut timber subsidies and better  protected biological needs by transferring $ 23 million out of  Forest Service timber road building programs into programs to  protect fish and wildlife. Worse yet, Campbell added an earmark to  an appropriations bill that required the Forest Service to spend  an additional $ 2 million to clear-cut aspen in the White River and  GMUG National Forests.

Adding insult to environmental injury, Campbell supported a  rider that would allow Forest Service and BLM officials to ignore  requirements to consider environmental impacts before permitting  logging and other industrial uses of public lands.  Regarding the  use of public lands, Campbell has consistently voted in favor of  business interests and against funding to protect the environment.

In 1998, for example, Campbell voted to block BLM-proposed  hard-rock mining reforms, and he voted in favor of maintaining tax  subsidies for mining companies. Campbell voted against  appropriations for the Clean Water Action Plan; the Land, Water  and Facility Restoration Initiative (for our national parks,  forest and other public lands); the Drinking Water and Clean Water  State Revolving Loan funds; and a funding increase to accelerate  toxic-waste cleanups at Superfund sites.

When Campbell does act on behalf of the environment, as in his  Canyons of the Ancients Bill, his efforts seem half-hearted. While  the bill honors the archaeological heritage and the biological  integrity of the Four Corners, it contains few specific provisions  to protect these things, and no designation of wilderness for the  Cross, Cahone, and Squaw/Papoose Wilderness Study Areas.

What it does do is ensure that no management activities  interfere with expanded oil and gas production in that area.  Basically the bill is a continuation of the area's current  management and, after various groups criticized the bill, Campbell  withdrew it.

These are not the actions of a senator who 'respects and  addresses the biological needs as equally as the needs of those  who responsibly use the resources of our national lands.'

Clearly Sen. Campbell is not interested in consensus or in  protecting the environment. To discover Campbell's intent, one  must look beyond his words to the legislative actions that he  takes on behalf of those who exploit our public lands.

Charles Kerr is a retired teacher living in Grand Junction, and  is a member of the Western Colorado Congress and Concerned  Citizens Resource Association, a Mesa County grassroots  organization.

LOAD-DATE: May 01, 2000

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