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Michael Bennet’s Listening Session in Nucla, Colorado

By Valerie Maez

June 17, 2024


 

Photo: Senator Michael Bennet in Nucla, Colorado and Representative Ron Hanks, sitting   June 9, 2024  


  Colorado Senator Michael Bennet held a listening session on the proposed Dolores Monument at the new Nucla school in their gymnasium which saw attendees lining the walls, after all the seats were filled. The proposed monument is the final objective  of four announced agenda items by a coalition of conservation groups immediately after the 2020 election. The original scheduled start time of the session was at 1:00 p.m. but a late change to the schedule had it commencing at 3:00 p.m.  It was said, that the change was to accommodate proponents of the proposal adequate time to be bused in for the event. In other words, stagecraft. Scott Braden, director  of the Colorado Wildlands Project, was identified by the Town of Naturita officials for engaging in dirty tricks prior to the scheduled event. In a posting in the Montrose Mirror, Braden’s efforts to suppress turnout by those opposed to the monument were enumerated.


 Indeed, many of the attendees wearing “Protect the Dolores Canyon” tee shirts were from Aspen and Telluride and a few that were  recognized as Black Lives Matter protesters from Cortez. Two notable differences between Senator Hickenlooper’s session and that of Senator Bennet was in procedures. Anyone wishing to speak at Hickenlooper’s event was afforded the opportunity to do so. Three microphones and lines were established to expedite speakers. At Bennet's event, his staff handed out ticket stubs, with numbers drawn from a clear plastic container. Out of the approximately 600 people gathered, a high number of drawn tickets were candidates campaigning for office. Three of the six Republican candidates running for CD3 spoke. A fourth CD3 candidate, Jeff Hurd who was not present, as has been his trademark, had a representative there who’s ticket was drawn and spoke on his behalf.  The State Senator of SD 6 was allocated his slot by a woman who was a representative of another candidate's campaign, who had her ticket drawn, but chose not to speak. A Mesa County Commissioner spoke. A Montrose County Commissioner candidate also had his ticket drawn and spoke. The spokesman for Dolores River Boating Advocates had his name drawn. As did the representative for Great Old Broads for Wilderness, who propagandized that the Canyon of the Ancients near Cortez was a model for initial resistance by locals to acceptance of Monument status as a beneficial thing. It has been falsely claimed by those who advocate Monuments of our public lands that multiple use of resources still exist. Canyon of the Ancients was established under Clinton, and they are still researching whether cattle grazing should be allowed on grounds that previously had cattle allotments. So their claims existing uses being maintained is demonstrable false. Facts are not on the side of proponents for the proposed Dolores Monument. If you don’t have facts on your side, use rhetoric, which all the proponents engaged in.


 In all of the discussions, I have not heard any evidence of the poor management of the public agencies charged with administrating the resources. In 1981, The Bureau of Land Management launched a Soil and Vegetation Inventory of their land units throughout western Colorado. Management plans were then updated for recommended resource protection. As opponents of the proposed Monument have accurately stated, the land is under protection. The real issue here, is that a group of un-elected, unaccountable, private entities want to control the resources of our public lands.


There was also the spokesman for the Wilderness Society,  a non profit that Swiss Billionaire Hansjorg Wyss generously supports. Mr. Wyss, who is not a U.S. citizen, signed The Giving Pledge in 2013. In an article in The New York Times, in October of 2018, Wyss stated he was contributing 1 billion dollars to environmental causes. James Carville, a political strategist who oversaw Bill Clinton campaigns, once famously said  in reference to accusations from women accusing Clinton of affairs, “drag a $100 dollar  bill through a trailer camp and there’s no telling what you will find”.   Imagine what a billion or so dollars will buy you from environmentalists. According to Wikipedia, Mr. Wyss who owned a medical device company called Synthes USA, used an untested bone cement that resulted in the death of three people in America.  In 2009 four of his top executives were indicted, convicted and sentenced to prison. Wyss sold the company to Johnson and Johnson in 2012. Also according to Wikipedia, Wyss received 97.4 million shares of Johnson & Johnson and 3.2 billion in cash from the deal.  Wyss Foundation created  The Hub Project in 2015 “to shape media coverage to help Democratic causes.”  Again, according to Wikipedia, “The Hub Project engaged in paid advertising campaigns in 2018 that criticized Republican congressional candidates.” Wikipedia reports that The Hub Project is part of Arabella Advisors, a leading vehicle for funneling “dark money” on the left.   Wyss’s daughter Amy, who is a U.S. citizen, sits on the board of the Lor Foundation, which is active in Cortez. Those groups who are the benefactors of Hansjorg Wyss funds see him as a world class philanthropist, yet Wyss money always have strings attached. One donation to the Bern Art Museum stipulated that no cars be allowed at the museum’s location. The Dolores River Boating Advocate individual drew boos from the crowd when he stated the Dolores River Watershed needed their oversight from the headwaters to the State Line.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

     Some audience members attending Bennet’s session were overheard expressing doubts over legitimacy of the ticket process due to the varied range in ticket numbers seemed to indicate a discrepancy. Bennet’s staff initially had an extremely large ticket roll, certainly enough to distribute to the entire assembly. The numbers on that ticket began  with the last four digits starting with 2500. Interestingly, when tickets were drawn, there were numbers beginning with a 2300 series and ones starting with 2400. There is the thought that the early birds to the event, mostly opponents of the Monument were given tickets beginning with 2500. When supporters of the Monument arrived in mass, ticket rolls were changed. Indeed, several late arriving Montezuma County Patriots were handed tickets in the 2300 series. Stagecraft.

     Of those who oppose the Monument that spoke, a woman from Gateway, in a voice filled with emotion, looked the blue shirted proponents in the eye, and asked, “How would you feel if we came into your gated community, your cul de sac, camped, took away your freedoms, left our trash, and invaded your home? We live here and take care of the land; you only visit and then go home to your safe place. This is our safe place, and you want to invade it.” To illustrate this point, there is a band of people known locally as “the nomads,” who live along the river banks and are a public nuisance that folks in the area are having to contend with.


     Sean Pond, a driving force behind the effort of Halt the Dolores Monument was not introduced by Senator Bennet, nor did he speak at the event, although he was present. On June 8, Pond posted this public statement: 

         “ We, the opponents of the Dolores Monument proposal, have been subjected to harassment, intimidation, and bullying by local proponents of the project. Despite our efforts to engage in respectful dialogue and express our disagreement on the issue, we have been met with hostility and threats. Our private property has been trespassed upon and our “ Halt the Dolores” signs have been removed. We condemn these actions and appeal for a return to civil discourse. We urge all parties involved to engage in respectful and constructive dialogue, even in the face of disagreement.”

 

Senator Bennet at his listening session stated how pleased he was to see that opposing points of view could have a civil meeting. He also mentioned that due to his background in public education, he had learned not to be offended by verbal barrages. That’s a good thing, as to many in leadership roles have very thin skins when it comes to constructive criticism.

 

The use of the Antiquities Act to create Monuments by Executive Order is an abuse of the Statute. One individual at the listening session actually read the section that authorizes a President to create a Monument. If Senator Bennet was listening, as well as the proponents of the Dolores Monument, it would be obvious that the specifics of the Antiquities Act preclude such action in this matter.

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