- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The (Longmont) Times-Call, Aug. 27, on the use of out-of-state plates to target Colorado pot users:

In some police and other law enforcement jurisdictions, the concept of a pretext traffic stop is a practice that can lead to the arrest and interception of major criminals even though the initial stop was seemingly minor.

For instance, a person with a parking pass or air freshener attached to his or her rearview mirror might be stopped on that traffic possible violation and then be asked to allow a full search of the entire vehicle on hopes of turning up contraband.

Courts around the country have cast a dim view on this, but not always disallowed evidence that emerges from such dragnets.

However, a recent court ruling in a Kansas case should help to ease a civil liberties dispute for all drivers who travel to adjacent states.

In Kansas, a group of law enforcement officers have held the belief that merely having Colorado license plates is enough probable cause to prompt a full vehicle search. Their logic: Because Colorado allows recreational marijuana, and Kansas does not, any Colorado vehicle might be being used to commit a felony. There’s a monetary motivation, too, because if marijuana is found, Kansas can keep the car under civil forfeiture rules.

Nice try, Kansas. In the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, the judges noted that recreational use of marijuana is allowed in four states and the medical use is allowed in about 20 more, meaning half of the country would fall under the profiling target set by Kansas law enforcement. That’s not good enough.

The use of out-of-state license plates to target marijuana use might seem appropriate here, but remember that only a couple of generations ago, law enforcement agencies in the Deep South targeted northern vehicles for their efforts to improve voter registration and civil rights for African-Americans. In some instances, those drivers were assaulted and even murdered.

Taken to the extreme, interstate travel would be horribly compromised. Would all cars from Wyoming be stopped on the pretext that they had fireworks that are illegal in Colorado? Would alcohol and tobacco controls be the next battlegrounds?

The Court of Appeals was right to defend Coloradans’ Fourth Amendment rights regarding searches and seizures, in the same way that local law enforcement agencies should be respecting the constitutional rights of those residents of other states who might find themselves in this state’s borders.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2bRmnXH


The Aurora Sentinel, Aug. 29, on state goals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions:

While the toxic political atmosphere is seemingly as dangerous as the one humans have seriously altered enveloping the planet, the time for diplomatically mincing words as Rome burns, so to speak, must end.

Gov. John Hickenlooper has boldly gestured that he might go around Republican obstructionists in the Colorado state Senate and push power-providers in the state to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about one-third.

In short, if a handful of GOP state lawmakers are too stupid or corrupt to do the right thing, Hickenlooper and others will grab the wheel before these ignorant legislators drive Colorado and the planet over the cliff.

We are 100 percent behind him, and unless you think real science is just a fad and open to interpretation much in the same way everyone looks at a Jackson Pollock painting, then you should be, too.

First off, the science and the consensus behind the fact - which for some people must these days be explained as the one and only irrefutable reality - unequivocally has revealed that humans have altered the atmosphere of this planet, and that it bodes grave ill for Colorado and the rest of the world. Think no snow for ski resorts. Endless forest fires. No water for farms and ranchers, here and across the world.

For decades, some people and their leaders, for a long list of reasons, have refused to believe this. They don’t understand it. They stupidly see it as a political point of contrarianism. And, even worse, they just don’t give a damn and would rather endanger themselves and all of us because they are greedy and corrupt. What not one signal climate-change denier is, however, is right.

In Colorado, these dead-wrong deniers use myriad and tedious arguments as to why Colorado and the United States shouldn’t alter its energy systems to try and slow dangerous climate change and find a way to reverse it. They are right in saying that Colorado alone can’t fix this. They are right in the same way that a kindergartener complains that forcing them to take a nap while the rest of the class plays isn’t fair and won’t make the room quiet.

Their sophomoric simpering isn’t about tax policy or wine and beer in grocery stores vs liquor shops. This is about a catastrophic climate change that will not only destroy Colorado’s recreation, tourism and agricultural economy, but it threatens our very wellbeing. And not just here, but around the world. It’s not just about rich people losing their summer homes as oceans rise and swallow the coasts, it’s about massive famines, unemployment and weather disasters that will rip through human civilization like nothing has before.

Because there are so many ignorant, naive or outright corrupt lawmakers in Colorado, other state legislatures and in Congress - all obstructing what must be done for the good of the planet - our only hope to break the impasse is with leaders like Hickenlooper, willing to do the right thing at what is certain to be serious political cost. Not Hickenlooper, not us, not anyone is asking Colorado or the country to send the nation into an economic abyss in an effort to try and turn the global-climate change around by Christmas. But what Hickenlooper is proposing is a small step, and an achievable one. And it sends the sign across the world that we can and must act.

There is no doubt there will be economic casualties as Colorado and the world makes changes, but only the stupid and corrupt don’t see that these problems pale in comparison to the unprecedented calamity that will envelope us all if we don’t act.

It will be easy for the United States to begin imposing graduated tariffs on countries who do not reduce their own emissions. Together we can compel or coerce the world the act on this global threat.

So the time to listen to the driveling nonsense of science deniers at the State Capitol has ended. We back this move by Hickenlooper and his allies. We insist that you ask your legislative and congressional candidates whether they’re on the bus to solve the reality of global-climate change, or whether we have to throw them off to save them from themselves.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2bQpKtA


The Durango Herald, Aug. 30, on local governments’ authority over oil and gas development:

Two state ballot initiatives designed to give local governments more say in gas and oil development, and to increase the setback of wells from homes, schools and hospitals, met their demise this week after failing to secure the required number of signatures to make the November ballot.

This hardly means the debate about community self-determination and ensuring protections for public health and the environment is going away. In fact, the state Legislature’s inability to come up with a compromise last session, which resulted in the now-failed citizen ballot initiatives, suggests that state government has more responsibility than ever before to address Coloradans’ ongoing concerns.

That is also true for local government and why, at the urging of La Plata County Board of County Commissioners, we support the Colorado State Land Board’s decision to put off until February 2017 the decision about whether to recommend a 640-acre parcel in the Florida Mesa Stewardship Trust for gas and oil leasing.

The additional time will allow the commissioners to coordinate with the State Land Board to conduct a local public hearing to listen to local concerned citizens about the impacts to land, wildlife, water and wells, private and public roads, traffic, noise and property values such development can pose.

A dual mission guides the State Land Board both to produce income to benefit K-12 education and provide sound stewardship of state trust lands such as Florida Mesa Stewardship Trust. Two years ago, gas and oil royalties on state trust lands generated $106 million to the State Land Board. Last year, due to prices dropping, they generated just $58 million.

Local governments like ours, accustomed to industry paying upward of 60 percent of our property taxes, are looking to other sources of revenue like the proposed road and bridge mill levy increase and impact fees to fund basic services. It may be an opportune time for the state to do the same.

For La Plata County Commissioners, continued efforts to weigh the costs and benefits of projects like these and ensure the protection of citizens and landowners through compliance with local regulations is paramount.

A February extension is a good thing.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2cqq1s6


The (Grand Junction) Daily Sentinel, Aug. 24, on state efforts to boost declining mule deer population:

State wildlife officials want to reduce the number of bears and cougars in a 500-acre area of the Roan Plateau to see if survival rates of mule deer fawns improve.

If survival rates in the study area are better than a control area southeast of Meeker where predator populations would remain untouched, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials may have an answer to a longstanding question about why the Western Slope mule deer population is slumping.

Seems like a reasonable approach. Nobody is blaming predators - yet - but the three-year study, if approved, may offer an explanation as to why deer number haven’t rebounded. Biologists in the field say there’s plenty of forage because the population is below habitat capacity. The latest estimate of Colorado’s mule deer population is 450,000, 110,000 fewer than CPW’s population objective for the state.

The predator question isn’t a knee-jerk response. As The Sentinel’s Dennis Webb reported Monday, researchers have considered a multitude of factors over a number of years, including impacts from development, both residential and energy-related.

Over the past several decades, fawn weights going into winter have improved. So have fawn winter survival rates. But deer populations remain at about a third of what they were before a big decline in the 1990s, leading researchers to wonder if predators are hindering population recovery. Conservative estimates suggest half of fawns aren’t making it to winter because predators get them before they’re 6 months old.

But predator removal is a touchy subject. There’s already pushback from ecologists and animal lovers who feel predators are being unfairly villainized and that their role in a healthy ecosystem isn’t fully appreciated.

That’s a fine notion, but it doesn’t really square with reality. In a perfect world, we’d allow natural forces to dictate population levels of both predator and prey. But man has already altered this delicate balance. Hunters cull more deer than bears and mountain lions do, which factors into population management. Why allow for the taking of one species and leave another unchecked under the false pretense of natural balance? The absence of wolves in Colorado has already proven that the natural environment isn’t completely natural.

That said, the CPW’s Piceance Basin predator management plan doesn’t propose the wholesale slaughter of bears and lions. Mothers with cubs will be moved, families intact. CPW anticipates five to 10 cougars and 10 to 20 bears being removed from the study area each spring. It’s a science-based approach to improving fawn counts by an agency whose mission is maintaining balance among wildlife and their habitats.

If predators prove to be a factor in mule deer numbers, keeping their numbers in check will be a rational response to the challenge of managing an important resource.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2ce0u45

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