With Senator Cory Gardner scheduled to be back in Colorado until after Labor Day for congressional recess, Western Values Project – a Montana-based public lands watchdog nonprofit – seeks answers from him on six pressing questions regarding funding for the Land and Water Conservation fund and public lands in Colorado:
- Will Senator Gardner address and meet with Coloradans during recess about his plans to get full and permanent funding for the LWCF passed in the Senate? Senator Gardner left for congressional recess without passing full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund – America’s most important conservation tool. Senator Gardner told a Colorado news radio station that he planned to be ‘all over the state, corner to corner’ but has yet to announce a single public meeting while on recess.
- Will Senator Gardner stand up to the Trump administration’s efforts to gut public land protections and demand full and permanent funding for the LWCF? Gardner voted to confirm the conflict-ridden Interior Secretary David Bernhardt — a former mega-lobbyist and a proponent of gutting the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Gardner continues to support President Trump, despite the administration’s historic reductions of public lands protections for special interests. President Trump’s budget for 2020 nearly zeroed out funding for the LWCF. In 2019, Trump’s budget slashed the program by 98 percent, and in 2018, by 84 percent. Gardner has failed to stand up to the administration’s proposed budget that would nearly zero out the bank account for this critical public lands and parks program.
- Will Senator Gardner demand that his senate leadership support and pass legislation he co-sponsored to fully and permanently fund the LWCF to help meet the needs of the national park maintenance backlog? The LWCF has invested more than $278.6 million in protecting Colorado’s parks, public access, and recreation areas, including providing funding for popular national parks like Rocky Mountain and Mesa Verde. Gardner has written about his efforts to pass funding for the LWCF and the need to address the national park maintenance backlog, yet has failed to deliver full and permanent funding for the LWCF.
- Will Senator Gardner stand up for Colorado’s public lands by calling for the immediate removal of William Pendley as the acting director of the BLM? Interior Secretary Bernhardt recently hired and delegated the authority and duties of the director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to William Pendley without congressional approval. The BLM Director position requires Senate confirmation, but the Trump administration — skirting government accountability practices — has yet to nominate a director after two and a half years. Pendley — a lawyer and the former president of Mountain States Legal Foundation who has sued Interior numerous times on behalf of oil, gas and coal interests — is a staunch advocate for the transfer and sell-off of federal public lands. Senator Michael Bennett said that BLM needs a leader that actually believes in its mission, while Gardner just kicked the can down the road.
- Will Senator Gardner call on the BLM to address extractive industry giveaways that will negatively impact hunting and outdoor recreation opportunities in Colorado? The BLM recently proposed oil and gas leases sales up for auction in September on 78,691 acres of public land covering 83 parcels in eight different counties that the state of Colorado asked to be delayed because many of the parcels are in priority sage-grouse habitat and are located in migratory corridors. Some leases are also located in critical winter range for elk and mule deer. Senator Gardner has not addressed the issue.
- What will Senator Gardner do to address the lack of accountability and culture of corruption that has run amok under conflicted former mega-lobbyist Interior Secretary Bernhardt’s leadership? Just four days after Senator Garnder voted to confirm David Bernhardt as the next Secretary of the Interior, Bernhardt became the subject of a multi-faceted ethics investigation. Six other Trump appointees at the Interior Department are also under investigation for ethics violations. One independent source counted more than a dozen scandals related to Bernhardt’s conduct at Interior. This may be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ethical lapses and misconduct by political appointees at Interior. As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, neither Senator Gardner nor his colleagues have called for a hearing or an investigation into the conduct of Trump’s political appointees at Interior.