Environmental Leaders Honored in Fort Collins

Gary Wockner, PhD

My, oh my, we are lucky to live in such a beautiful place with mountains, rivers and abundant open space. And it's important to recognize and honor the leaders who have helped create the quality of life and environmental protections we enjoy.

On Wednesday, the environmental community honored our environmental leaders in Fort Collins. The event also was a fundraiser for the statewide environmental organization Colorado Conservation Voters, which works to elect strong environmental champions to the state Legislature and governor's office.

And strong environmental champions we do have in Fort Collins!

State Reps. John Kefalas and Randy Fischer, and state Sen. Bob Bacon once again all scored 100 percent (A+) on the state legislative environmental scorecard. Overall, Kefalas, Fischer and Bacon helped the state Legislature pass bills supporting clean energy, supporting protections from oil and gas development, and modernizing our transportation infrastructure.

Specifically, on the clean energy front, the Legislature passed a suite of solar bills to make solar a standard option on all new homes, to create a low-interest loan fund for schools to invest in renewable energy improvements, and to extend the sales and use tax exemption for solar power.

On the oil and gas front, the Legislature passed landmark legislation to protect Colorado's water, wildlife and communities from the impacts of oil and gas drilling. The legislation marks the end of a two-year-long effort that included support from sportsmen, conservationists, local government officials, public health advocates and rural landowners.

On the transportation front, Colorado made important steps toward modernizing and maintaining a 21st-century transportation infrastructure with Senate Bill 108, or FASTER, which marked a turning point for state transportation policy by dedicating $15 million annually to transit, bike and pedestrian safety.

It was a good year for the environment in the state Legislature, and Kefalas, Fischer and Bacon deserved, and got, a big round of applause from for helping to protect Colorado's environment from more than 100 people attending the event.

Additionally, the CCV event honored another Fort Collins environmental leader, City Councilman Kelly Ohlson. The state board of directors of Colorado Conservation Voters awarded Ohlson the 2009 Larimer County Environmental Leadership award for his 30 years of work protecting our environment.

Ohlson, who also is mayor pro-tem, has supported myriad environmental programs in Fort Collins and Larimer County including protecting open space, air quality, the Poudre River and wildlife habitat.

He has been one of the central figures in environmental work in Larimer County for 25 years and one of our state's environmental heroes at the local level.

Fort Collins and Larimer County have a great environmental legacy, and our elected leaders are working hard to ensure this legacy remains for future generations. They deserve our support and admiration for all of their work, and they deserve to be re-elected year after year.

Thank you, Senator Bacon, Representatives Kefalas and Fischer, and Councilman Ohlson.

Gary Wockner, Ph.D., lives in Fort Collins and is on the board of directors for Colorado Conservation Voters (ColoradoConservationVoters.org).