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Questions of the day

Published 31 October 2006 in the Denver Post.
Copyright ©2006 by Ed Quillen. All rights reserved.

As the campaign season winds to an end, I have received many questions, and some of them deserve answers. So I'll try to be an advice columnist today.

Dear Ed,

Do you really think Jay Fawcett has a chance in the 5th Congressional District?

Hopeful in Colorado Springs

Dear Hopeful,

Last week I visited your fair city, and I had a chance to examine the yard signs on Lake Avenue en route to the Broadmoor, where I was speaking. That upscale neighborhood has to be the most Republican precinct on our planet. I saw many GOP yard signs, but not one for Doug Lamborn. If it's embarrassing to support him publicly in that neighborhood, and if the national GOP has to bring in Dick Cheney for a rant, then Fawcett must have a chance.

Dear Ed,

I am on every known do not call list, and I still get these annoying robo calls urging me to vote one way or another. Is there anything we can do about this?

Annoyed in Akron

Dear Annoyed,

Under the current law, political calls are exempt from do not call preferences -- First Amendment and all that. But perhaps the law could be changed so that it covers machines. If a living, breathing human whom I can yell at disturbs my siesta to tell me that civil unions mean the end of civilization as we know it, that at least promotes discussion of public matters. When a machine calls, all I can do is hang up in response.

We must make it clear that people have rights under the First Amendment, and that machines do not. In general I oppose torture, but I'd love to watch part of a 72-hour sleep-deprivation session that involves round-the-clock automated voice-synthesized calls for robo-call providers.

Dear Ed,

I'm somewhat dismayed that in this gubernatorial campaign, we have a choice between a lawyer on one side, and a banker and real-estate developer on the other. Are there any other options?

Perplexed in Peetz

Dear Perplexed,

I plan to vote for Bill Ritter, and one reason is the he is not Bob Beauprez factor. However, if that course is unacceptable to you, there is Dawn Winkler of Gunnison, the Libertarian candidate -- the course I often take myself when the major parties fall down on the job. Or you can write in Chuck Sylvester of LaSalle, former manager of the National Western Stock Show. He's a Republican, but he's still a pretty good guy.

Dear Ed,

All you pundits keep speculating about an October surprise that Karl Rove will contrive. Well, October is almost over, and I still haven't seen it. What gives?

Curious in Cortez

Dear Curious,

Just wait until later this week, when President Bush goes on national TV with Osama bin Laden's severed head on his desk and announces that if pagan Democrats were in control of one or both houses of Congress, this triumph never could have happened.

But I could be wrong. Given that Bush campaigned in 2000 as a frugal compassionate uniter with a humble foreign policy, the Bushites may have already sprung more surprises than we can handle.

Dear Ed,

After hearing a speech the other night from a Utah professor, and then watching a video called Loose Change, I am convinced that 9-11 was a big fake. Explosives were planted in the World Trade Center towers. A cruise missile, not a commercial airliner, hit the Pentagon, and the current administration was secretly behind it all. You haven't addressed this. Are you part of the conspiracy, too?

Seething in Springfield

Dear Seething,

I've seen that video, too, and I've read several conspiracy theories. They all seem to be missing one major factor. Consider the bungled occupation of Iraq, the response to Hurricane Katrina, the continued flood of illegal immigrants, etc. Obviously, the Bushites would have trouble organizing a two-car funeral procession, let alone a major conspiracy and cover-up.

Dear Ed,

What do you think of that ballot measure that requires school districts to spend 65 percent of their budget on classroom instruction?

Curious in Craig

Dear Curious,

I'd prefer a measure that requires metropolitan newspapers to spend 65 percent of their budgets on columnists.

Does The NRA Hate Wildlife?

Published 5 November 2006 in the Denver Post.

Do you think the National Rifle Association is all about preserving Americans' rights to bear arms under the Second Amendment to the federal constitution? Or is the NRA also dedicated to good hunting?

Neither. It's actually a shill for the motorized-recreation lobby, as matters have developed on the proposed Browns Canyon Wilderness Area here in Chaffee County. The NRA opposes it, and on that account, the bill may not pass Congress this year.

The Arkansas River runs through Browns Canyon for about eight miles between Buena Vista and Salida. With 110,110 commercial passengers in 2005, this stretch has a fair claim on being the most popular white-water rafting stretch in the world.

The proposed wilderness area is about 20,000 acres of BLM and Forest Service land on the east side of the river, stretching from just above the railroad tracks (once the main line of the Denver & Rio Grande Western, and now rusting and out of service) to the top of Aspen Ridge, which separates Chaffee and Park counties.

There were a lot of people named Brown around here right after the 1859 gold rush, so it's hard to know which one left his name on the canyon. The best candidate is a John Brown who ranched in the general area in 1863, when he joined a posse to go after the Espinosa gang, led by two Conejos brothers who terrorized South Park and environs with at least nine murders. The Espinosas were eventually killed by soldiers who trailed them.

By 1865, a watercourse on the west side of the Arkansas was named Browns Creek, and at its mouth was a small placer camp named Brownsville, which became a ghost town by 1868. Below that, down to Hecla Junction, was Browns Canyon.

While the west side of the river along that stretch was ranched and otherwise developed, the east side of the valley was rough and dry. It wasn't fit for much grazing or logging, and when deposits were developed -- big iron mines, various gold and copper prospects, some granite quarries -- they were south of the land that sat between Browns Canyon and Aspen Ridge.

Thus this 20,000-acre tract retained wilderness characteristics. However, one mining camp, Turret, briefly developed into something of a town at the start of the 20th century. Most access relied on a bone-jarring road from Salida, but there was a wagon road from Trout Creek Pass to the north.

That wagon road, shown on some modern maps as the Turret Trail, runs through the proposed Browns Canyon Wilderness Area. If the Browns Canyon Wilderness Act, as currently drawn, were to pass Congress, then the road would be closed to vehicles.

The bill is supported by our entire Congressional delegation, including Sen. Wayne Allard and retiring Rep. Joel Hefley, both Republicans. When Sen. Ken Salazar was in town last month, a room full of people told him to push hard for the bill when Congress returns to work after the election.

Much of the support came from the rafting industry, which would like to market wilderness trips, or at least river trips really close to Official Wilderness.

And it might be fair to oppose wilderness designation because the Turret Trail could run afoul of one clause of the 1964 Wilderness Act, which says wilderness is where the imprint of man's work [is] substantially unnoticeable.

What's substantially noticeable or unnoticeable is a judgment call. But I did check with the U.S. Forest Service and the Colorado Division of Wildlife, and big-game hunting is allowed in wilderness areas, unless they're in national parks. Further, wilderness provides habitat, and without habitat, there won't be wild game to hunt.

Wilderness designation would not prevent anyone from hunting on the east side of Browns Canyon. And it might well improve hunting, not just in the wilderness area, but in the entire vicinity. It's certainly not affecting any citizen's right to keep and bear arms.

So why is the NRA opposing this? According to Ashley Varner in the NRA's Washington office, we feel the bill would drastically reduce access to the area for hunters and sportsmen, especially those who are elderly, and Without roads in the area, it would make it nearly impossible to pack out big game.

Apparently, the NRA has never heard of pack animals like mules and horses. If hunters are too old to walk or ride a horse, what are they doing out there anyway? Making sure our search-and-rescue volunteers stay busy in the fall?

This isn't a Second Amendment issue, and it doesn't prevent anyone from hunting in the affected area. So why on earth is the NRA supporting more habitat fragmentation with loud and obnoxious vehicles? Is there a new motto: I will give up my ATV when you pry my cold dead fingers off the throttle.?

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