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Denver, CO

guest commentary
Values of another kind

By Gary Wockner
Fort Collins

I, too, am a values voter, and so it was with sheer exuberance that I embraced the election results that showed values voters won the day.

The values I voted for on Nov. 2 were clean air, flowing rivers, abundant and diverse wildlife, and open and wild Colorado landscapes. These represent the "higher power" that drew me to Colorado and sustain me every day in this beautiful state.

If you endorse these same values, we have much to celebrate from the 2004 Colorado election. Here's a quick list: the brothers Salazar, Mark Udall, Diana Degette, an environmentally friendlier Colorado legislature, the FasTracks transit plan, the renewable energy amendment, and many pro-environment county commissioners.

Much has been made of the values voters in Ohio and the ability of the Bush administration to get them to the polls to support the anti-gay marriage push, and then ultimately, the Bush presidency.

Here in Colorado, a somewhat similar phenomenon occurred - with pro-environment candidates and pro-environment ballot issues, green voters swarmed the polls. FasTracks and the renewable energy amendment enjoyed healthy margins of success.

Still, we did not carry the state for John Kerry, something President Bush's anti-gay vote did in Ohio. Why? Because we were not bold enough. Think about it - a state coming out against gay marriage is a bold, audacious statement. It is a gritty, ugly slap in the face to all homosexuals (like my brother), their families and their friends.

As we begin to plan for future elections, let's think bolder. The majority of Colorado voters have long shown their support for preserving the state's environment as they did in 2004. What we need are more ballot initiatives to keep Colorado clean and green and bring out the environmental vote, and then likewise, the vote to carry broader statewide and national candidates to office.

Here's a list of environmental ballot initiatives to consider in the coming months:

  • For our air: Require California-like smog controls on automobiles to battle the metro area's brown cloud.
  • For our water: Require state and regional water boards to create real conservation initiatives and only build new dams and reservoirs as a last resort. Require minimum streamflows statewide so that Colorado's rivers and streams can support fish, wildlife and human enjoyment in perpetuity.
  • For our wildlife: Reintroduce wolves and wolverines, and analyze grizzly bear potential in Colorado. Continue to reform Great Outdoors Colorado and other state and local funding organizations so that habitat purchases and wildlife enhancements are top priorities.
  • For our land: Create additional state and local funding initiatives to preserve ranches, farms, and open space. Create state and local land-use incentives to curtail sprawl and manage population growth.

Recall that the renewable energy amendment passed readily but was aggressively opposed by the mega-corporations and industries that profit handsomely from the current system. The above ballot initiatives will likely face the same aggressive opposition. But in order to win the day for the air, water, wildlife, land, and ultimately the ordinary people of Colorado, we will need to face this opposition and be bolder.

Let's never forget that the natural environment around us creates the very world we need to live - it creates our air, cleans our water, and provides all the sustenance and awe that enriches our lives. If we give the voters the choice to create a cleaner, greener Colorado, the voters will continue to speak their values.

The arch eco-druid David Brower once wrote a book titled, "Let the mountains talk, let the rivers run!" I add to that, "Let the voters speak!" Values voters, that is. God bless 'em.

Gary Wockner ( a writer and ecologist in Fort Collins.

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