McInnis returning to Congress

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— Congressman Scott McInnis claimed a sixth term in the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday night with an easy win over Democratic challenger Dennis Berckefeldt.

McInnis claimed Routt County by a margin of 120,474 to 60,765 as he flattened his opponent in a congressional district that is among the nation's largest in geographical terms.

More than 2.8 million voters live in the district.

Districtwide, McInnis claimed 65 percent of the vote to 33 percent for Berckefeldt.

Berckefeldt, an actor who works as assistant to lieutenant governor candidate Bill Thiebaut, was essentially a fill-in candidate for the Democrats.

McInnis, who lives in Grand Junction and has made a habit of returning to the district every weekend, has been vocal in the area of natural resources policy in the past year.

McInnis appeared to have the National Forest that surrounds Steamboat Springs in mind early in October when he sponsored an amendment to the Healthy Forest Reforms Act of 2002.

A member of the House Resources Committee, he sponsored an amendment intended to streamline approval of forest thinning in cases where forest or rangeland health is threatened by "blowdown" or "insect infestation," among other factors.

The Medicine Bow/Routt National Forest here experienced a massive timber blowdown from a 1997 windstorm.

The vast tracts of dead timber provided ripe conditions for a major outbreak of spruce bark beetles and experienced its first major forest fire in many years during the past two summers.

The overall bill is intended to expedite fuel-reduction projects on federal lands to protect communities and water supplies. The "expedited authorities" created by the bill are limited to cases where there is a wildland /urban interface, municipal watersheds, as well as critical habitat for threatened and endangered species.

The outbreak of chronic wasting disease among deer and elk in Northwest Colorado also drew the attention of the congressman from the state's third district.

McInnis convened a hearing on CWD in May.

He made it clear he believes decision-making authority should remain in Colorado but called on the federal government to contribute resources to the attack on the disease.

McInnis said no game plan existed at the time and called on all of the many federal agencies to cooperate closely.

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