By Dexter Gill
Sha na na na na, Dip dip dip, Mum mum mum – Get a Job! Remember that song by the Silhouettes in 1957? Probably most of you don’t, but I sure do. I was doing just that, trying to get a job!
Recently I heard a presentation by the promoters of Teen Maze where they said their goal is to help our youth be able to stay here to get jobs and work instead of leaving for the big cities. Of course that would mean jobs would need to be available, as well as housing or at least land they could build a house on. Do we wonder why that is of concern? I’ve heard it said “we are a dying community”! Huh?
Well, I understand that a major portion of the personal income here is from out of the area such as working out of county or even state. When those jobs end, where do they go? Aging retirees bring in retirement funds and Social Security, and I’m one of them. The odds are that 99.9 percent of my group will be in the happy hunting grounds pushing up tomatoes and daisies in 10-20 years or less! The non-producing soft wealth sources to the local economy will go kerplonk and there are not enough jobs and youth left here to pick up the economic loss.
So where do we start to develop businesses for our new youthful workers to find jobs? Look at what we have been blessed with right here. We have outstanding agricultural crop lands, great livestock range, oil and gas and minerals, and forests in need of management. So it looks like there are plenty of potential opportunities. We can expand what we already have with new and added-value products. We can look for new opportunities, especially in using the dying forest instead of burning it. We can expand on recreation-business opportunities.
We are sitting on a virtual gold mine of opportunity; all we need is some ingenuity and can-do attitude. Uhh, we do need something else – willingness and desire to grow our economy. We can no longer depend on the government; we have to do it as our grandparents and parents did in converting Montezuma County from the dry, dusty high desert into the verdant green fields, pastures, lakes, and irrigation systems we enjoy today.
Wow, I was getting all excited, but then remembered that there are actually people here and around us that do not want our economy to grow or for our youth to work here and build families. Growth would mean change, and the only change they want is for their personal wants to be met. A piece of broken pottery from a trash heap or a jumping mouse have become more important to “protect” than the future of our youth and county.
One big problem to contend with is the land base to work from. Our country was built upon the right to own property. Private property provided for a man’s family to have life, liberty and to pursue his happiness. Unfortunately, that “right” to private property has been curtailed by the federal government’s withholding of the states’ public lands. This has resulted in Montezuma County only having 28 percent of the land available for private ownership and economic development. All the rest is federally controlled outdoor open space, which could be for recreation use, if we could just use it.
In my search for economic opportunities, I checked in on the state’s Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO). Wow, here are grants from state funds for recreation, trails, habitat development, etc. This is great! Then I was dumbfounded to find that over the past 20 years, as of this June, $9,234,926.70 has been spent right here In Montezuma County on 50 projects. Bet you didn’t know that. However, $7,418,203 of the $9 million went to private property owners to ensure their property would not be available for economic growth and business development for jobs for our youth and future. That amounted to an additional 4,889.17 acres of potential economicuse land deleted from the already paltry 28 percent of our private land base.
To add insult to injury, the “protected” land that the state paid for is not even open to the public for hunting, recreation, fishing etc. The true definition of “protection” in this land conservancy program is actually “waste.” Could that $7 million have been much better spent on developing wildlife habitat, recreation roads, trails, facilities and opportunities on the public and state lands that the public could benefit from? Something is smelly in Denmark, well, maybe here too!
It is interesting to note that the GOCO program was established by Colorado constitutional amendment in 1992, the same year that President Bush signed the U.N. Treaty at the Earth Summit in Rio, whose goal is to end all private land ownership worldwide. The state’s GOCO new strategic goal #2 is a perfect fit for the “Rewilding of America” plans, which removes man’s use of the public lands and reduces private land ownership for development, via the various land-conservancy programs, which neither protect or conserve the lands or resources.
Since GOCO funds are to improve Colorado Outdoor Recreation resources, how about all the funds be directed through the county governments for use on projects that the county determines will best benefit the local outdoor recreation opportunities and economy?
Dexter Gill is a retired forest manager who worked for private industry, three Western state forestry agencies, and the Navajo Nation forestry department. He writes from Lewis, Colo.