April 2014
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Hypocrisy and government

By Galen Larson

There seems to be a lot of concern in this county about government overreach, too many taxes, and infringement on freedoms. Nobody likes the government, it seems.

Yet all these anti-government folks are walking around on tax-funded sidewalks in Cortez, driving on tax-funded streets, roads, and highways, and grazing their cattle on tax-maintained public lands. They seem to welcome any help they can find, whether from farm subsidies, low-interest loans, crop insurance, and grants. Yet they want to deny other folks a living wage, unemployment, or food stamps to feed their families.

People carry on about socialism and communism and how much they hate it – then shop at big-box stores that make their fortunes selling merchandise from a communist nation. I fought in a war that was intended to contain communism, but sometimes I wonder why we bothered, now that China is the second-largest economy in the world and growing every minute.

I see that Walmart, largely dependent on China for its cheap merchandise, recently admitted in its annual financial statement that its huge profits from food-stamp sales were an essential part of its overall revenue stream.

So it’s hard for me to feel much sympathy for the people who complain that private property rights of landowners in the Dolores River Valley are somehow being infringed upon because they can’t develop everything and anything they want, regardless of what impact these structures might cause to the county’s water supply. These are the people who complain about socialism on the one hand, and embrace Social Security and Medicare on the other. All they seem to care about is what is good for them personally. They don’t give a whit about the fact that most of us in this county depend on water from the Dolores River. It is our only source of serviceable H2O and is key to our agriculture and our entire economy.

At a recent meeting, Commissioner Larry Don Suckla asked me my stand on endangered fish. I answered honestly: If it came down to the fish or me, I would of course be on the side of me. But the question being considered by the county right now has nothing to do with endangered fish. It has to do with how to protect our water supply and its quality.

I’ve read quite a bit of history of the West, and I learned that water has been a source of controversy throughout the years. As the saying goes, “Whiskey’s for drinkin’, water’s for fightin’.” As the population grows, available water diminishes – not hard to figure out that equation. Run for your fun, it ain’t going to be fun.

There are a lot of people who take it for granted that there will always be plenty of good, clean water. Well, man can perform a lot of miracles, but one thing he cannot do is make water in quantities vast enough to slake humanity’s thirst. Filter it, boil it, run it through the sewer; no matter, there is still only so much water. (Maybe turning wine back into water would have been a more compelling miracle.)

The technology needed to extract harmful bacteria and chemicals from water is an ever-increasing fight as we pour more and more pollutants into our drains and onto our lawns. Pharmaceuticals that are not totally absorbed by the body are excreted into our water. As a male, I don’t need to be exposed to secondhand birth-control hormones and at 85 I have no need for leftover Viagra. As the connoisseur of good whiskey says, “I’ll take mine neat – nothing added, thank you.” I’ll take my water the same, if you please.

While the commissioners are worrying about rare species possibly crossing the county boundary and threatening us somehow, they seem blasé about the real threat that could be posed if people up the Dolores River are allowed to develop willy-nilly, with condos, restaurants, RV parks, garages, decks, second and third homes, and who knows what else. The issue isn’t just septic systems. It’s all the things that people can do that affect the riverbank and riparian area, and all the things they can put in the water. Once water is polluted, the cost can be enormous to make it potable again.

The county is going to be having hearings on the Dolores River Valley Plan. Better get informed and show up. Otherwise, we may wind up with brown ice – and the coloring won’t all be from dust storms and erosion, if you catch my meaning.

Galen Larson writes from Montezuma County, Colo.


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