Democratic candidate for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District Diane Mitsch Bush opposes Rep. Scott Tipton’s recent suggestion to open more federal land to livestock grazing.
Mitsch Bush, a former Colorado state representative, spoke with The Durango Herald’s editorial board Wednesday about her views.
Congress is considering legislation that would open hundreds of thousands of additional acres of federal land to grazing by livestock. At a hearing last week, Tipton recommended the government enlist help from ranchers and farmers to better protect federal lands.
Tipton, R-Cortez, claims farmers and ranchers would protect ranges, reduce fire threats and protect nature. Typically, they remove invasive weeds and build stock ponds that could be used by wildlife, he said.
“The premise does not quite fit the facts,” Mitsch Bush said. “Talking about this as a solution to fires is interesting. I don’t think it will work even if you did it. I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Mitsch Bush is concerned that if local ranchers graze uncontrollably, ranges could be unusable and bodies of water could degrade. She said numerous range-management programs have been effective in mitigating the impact of cattle grazing on watersheds.
“With all due respect to Mr. Tipton, I don’t think he has studied range management very closely,” Mitsch Bush said. “I think there are better ideas out there to deal with this.”
Representatives for Tipton did not immediately respond for comment.
Livestock grazing already is permitted across stretches of federal lands in the West. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management authorizes livestock grazing on 155 million acres, more than half of the acreage it administers. The U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also permit grazing on some of their lands. In Colorado, the federal government owns about 37 percent of the land.
Mitsch Bush also discussed November’s General Election. She said unaffiliated voters will play a big role because she believes they sometimes reject corruption and back-room politics often associated with Washington politicians.
“It’s the people’s House,” Mitsch Bush said. “And it’s been turned from the people’s House into a plutocratic, pay-to-play club, that is not legislating in our interests period. Our representative is frankly one of the key examples.”
Regarding health care, Mitsch Bush supports legislation that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices. She said the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has had the ability to negotiate drug prices for its clients. She also wants to curtail the rate of increase for both drug prices and for insurance premiums.
“That’s a no-brainer,” Mitsch Bush said. “One of the things that’s killing businesses and individuals are their premiums are going through the roof. But they’re also having to spend each year more and more and more on the same generic drugs that they have been using for a long time.”
She also would like to change misunderstandings current congressional members have of District 3, which encompasses a majority of Colorado’s Western Slope.
“Anything you can imagine about the level of misunderstanding in Washington about our district, ramp it up by at least 10,” she said. “It is just unbelievable, the characterizations of our district.”
Mitsch Bush said her goal is to reach the House, and she has no desire to serve in leadership. She hopes her lack of desire for a leadership role will help her fix the divisiveness between the two parties on Capitol Hill.
“In the Colorado House, I was known for working across the aisle and getting things done with my Republican colleagues,” she said. “I’m ready to do that in the U.S. Congress because you have to get things done.”
Mitsch Bush also said she isn’t afraid to stand up to leadership in her own party to vote in the best interest of her constituents.
“If Nancy Pelosi or whatever leadership doesn’t like what I’m doing, I will be very cordial and very civil, and I will tell them that this is what I’m doing for my constituents,” she said.