During separate interviews broadcast last Wednesday on KSJD (91.5 FM, Cortez), host Austin Cope questioned the two major party candidates running for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District seat, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) and former legislator and CU Regent, Democrat Gail Schwartz from Crested Butte. Their answers highlighted one of the more contentious issues emanating from the coverage of their race: Schwartz’s attacks on Tipton’s record in protecting and managing federal lands in Colorado, and Tipton pushing back by characterizing her attacks as misleading or untrue.
In recent weeks, the CD3 race has gained unexpected attention, with a volatile campaign landscape in an unconventional and somewhat unpredictable presidential cycle, attracting late and significant increases in political spending from Colorado entities and out-of-state sources.
\Schwartz has benefited from a surge in momentum in a district where Republicans were previously heavily favored.
The candidates’ contrasting policy positions on public land management have been highlighted in reporting and endorsements from an array of Western Slope and front range media outlets, including The Daily Sentinel, The Durango Herald, Real Vail, The Pueblo Chieftain, The Colorado Independent, and Colorado Public Radio.
In the KSJD interview, Cope asked Tipton what he believes the federal government’s role should be in protecting federal lands:
COPE: […] You and Gail Schwartz have disagreed some over public lands management. Gail Schwartz has said that you want to transfer public lands management to the states. But you have that denied that claim. How, specifically, do you view the role of the federal government in public lands management?
TIPTON: You know, it’s, uh — what we’ve been putting forward in legislation — and I’m glad you brought this up because what she says in untrue and that’s really unfortunate on her part. No legislation that she can point to [shows] that I’ve tried to sell public lands. In fact, we’ve been putting forward legislation to make sure that our people have access to the public lands. I put forward the Hermosa Creek bill — [an area which is] just north of Durango — to be able to create opportunities not only for wilderness, but to make sure that we have access to those public lands for snowmobilers, for hunters, for anglers. Those are the issues that I think are important to our district. We’re continuing to make sure that we are going to have that access, and multiple use on the public lands, as well, to doing responsible energy development, to being able to put in a bike trail. Those are all elements that we’ve been working on, and will continue to advocate for. Unfortunately, my opponent has stated an untruth, and I think it’s important for people to know that we’ve stood up for the district. I grew up here.
Responding to the same question, Schwartz pointed to specific votes and bills sponsored by Tipton to validate her critiques and diminish Tipton’s pushback:
SCHWARTZ: Well, I think, you know, public lands need to stay in public hands. And most recently, there is even questioning [of] the appropriateness of transferring federal land to the states. And very clearly we have seen a number of bills that Scott Tipton has chosen to cosponsor or introduce and — that really are very specifically promoting the transfer, disposal, sale, starting with the Heard Act – 5836. He also cosponsored House Resolution 866 last year and that had a very clear direction to transfer federal lands to the state, to lease, permit, or regulate oil and gas exploration, and those lands would not be subject to federal reviews, or endangered species, NEPA [National Environmental Protection Act], [nor the] Historic Preservation Act. And most importantly, the vote that Scott Tipton took this year that really was a vote against an amendment that the appropriations bill 2822 called no extralegal sale or seizure of public lands, which would prevent a chance to sell America’s public lands. So, he clearly supports selling, disposing federal lands.
Tipton and Schwartz also answered questions relating to their campaign strategies in a presidential election year, their views on the Bureau of Land Management’s Master Leasing Plan, the discrepancy in federal and state laws regarding legalized marijuana, and representing their constituents in a large and diverse district. On these topics, there appeared to be more agreement in their answers, although both candidates sprinkled in a generous dose of campaign talking points into each response.