Guest opinion: Sammon, I support Issue 1A,
October 18, 2016
As a lifelong fiscal conservative, I can't believe what I'm about to say, but I am voting "yes" on Grand County Referred Issue 1A when I receive my ballot. I've done my research, asked questions and held lengthy discussions with supporters of Issue 1A, and am satisfied that it is the right direction for the County and our citizens. I will be saying Yes to Open Lands, River and Tails! Conservation, enhancement and protection of our land and water are expensive endeavors, particularly in beautiful settings such as Middle Park where developers and the uber wealth have inflated the price of land. East Grand County knows firsthand what happens when a valley of ranches and open land becomes a valley of stop lights, condos and McMansions. And west Grand County has lost many of our family ranches to billionaire absentee owners. One of the most successful solutions for landowners and the public alike is the use of voluntary land conservation easements. Having just successfully placed our historic McElroy Ranch in Kremmling under easement, I know firsthand the monetary challenges to conserving ranchland and keeping families on the land. We also know that up to 80 percent of the water that originates in Grand County has the possibility, or is already being diverted to the Front Range. Trans-mountain water diversions have devastating and costly consequences to the natural ecosystem, and adversely affect the livelihoods of ranchers and other private property owners in the valley. Congratulations are certainly in order to our County officials and dedicated employees for their historic agreements with Northern Water and Denver Water, but the hard work now begins to round up the cash needed for restoration projects. Headwaters Trails Alliance knows all too well the obstacles to realizing the wishes of our locals and visitors for multi-use trails. Again, cash is in short supply. Issue 1A is the only way to insure that our visitors to the County pay for the amenities they want. Spending on taxable goods by visitors and commercial interests generate a full 58 percent of the estimated sales tax revenue collected in Grand County. Issue 1A is expected to generate $750,000 annually, and while that is a big figure, it is a drop in the bucket compared to the challenges we have in Grand County. Until now, landowners, conservation groups and trails advocates in Grand County have worked alone; but when a community has a dedicated source of funding for conservation, protection and enhancement it becomes easier to leverage for big grant funding and to appeal to private funding sources. We also become able to respond to our landowners and citizens needs immediately and directly. But what I like the most about Issue 1A is the assured accountability, and the fact that it expires in 10 years. Independent audits, caps on administrative expenses and a citizen advisory committee go a long way to making sure my tax dollars are used wisely. Poll after poll in Grand County has identified open land habitat, preservation of our dwindling rivers, and conservation of agricultural lands as top priorities, so now it is time to put our money where our hearts have always been.