Sally Claassen: Udall for Senate

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— The good news is that the 2008 presidential race has generated more excitement, youth involvement, and dialogue (not to mention diatribe!) than we've seen in a long time. The bad news is that it threatens to overshadow the U.S. Senate race in Colorado - Mark Udall vs. Bob Schaffer. This is a critical one, folks. Here are the top three reasons I've planted Udall's sign in my front yard.

No. 1: The Yampa River. I love it and I bet you do, too, whether you fish it, float it, irrigate with it or walk beside it. It is the thread that ties our valley together and a unique natural resource that runs wild from Stagecoach Reservoir to Steamboat Rock in Dinosaur National Monument. I want it to stay where it is and whether you're a rancher, recreationalist or environmentalist, I bet you do, too. But pressure on the Yampa River is intensifying. The insatiable demands of the Front Range have the Yampa in their scopes. Udall is sensitive to water issues facing the Western Slope and the last frontier of the Yampa. He vigorously opposed Referendum A - a blatant water grab. His opponent, Bob Schaffer, supported Referendum A. Here's something to consider: Bob Schaffer's home is the 4th Congressional District. The immediate threat to the Yampa is the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District's proposal to "pump back" the Yampa to supply its district, which serves - yep, you guessed it - much of Schaffer's home turf. When it comes to the Yampa River and leaving it where it belongs, Udall is the only candidate for Senate who will represent those of us who love the Yampa.

No. 2: Our environmental policy of the past eight years reminds me of Shel Silverstein's beloved children's book, "The Giving Tree," in which the tree gives and gives and the boy takes and takes until there is only a stump left to sit on. Unless our leaders recognize that the environment is a finite gift that requires careful and visionary management, we're going to be sitting on the proverbial stump. Our forests, mountains, valleys and deserts have intrinsic value; they are not just commodities. We in the Yampa Valley know this. It's why we came; it's why we stay. Mark Udall knows it, too. His love and concern for the environment are long standing; he hasn't just caught the latest green wave. His efforts to preserve and conserve while wisely using natural resources always have been an integral part of his public service. He has been one of the nation's strongest voices for renewable energy while Bob Schaffer has voted against renewable energy partnerships and tougher fuel efficiency standards.

And now for something completely different - No. 3: I hate the Iraq War. I hate that we started it; I hate the trillions we are spending on it and the mortgage it is putting on my children's backs. Udall does, too. But we're there, and as a result, more than 4,000 of our troops have lost their lives, and many others have returned limbless, physically wounded, or psychically injured only to find grossly inadequate care, treatment, facilities or help for their families. It is shameful and morally inexcusable. Udall thinks so, too, and despite his opposition to the war, he has been a tireless advocate for veterans' benefits. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Bob Schaffer. I encourage you to support our brave and loyal veterans by voting for Mark Udall, the candidate who is fighting to ensure that veterans get the care they deserve when they return home.

Sally Claassen

Steamboat Springs

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