Mesa County Commissioner Scott McInnis has carefully cultivated an image of being a land conservation maven. Until recently he was a member of the board of Colorado Open Lands, a statewide land trust that holds the largest conservation easement in the state. That group’s mission is to conserve productive farmland and scenic areas of the state through voluntary partnerships with private landowners and federal, state and local agencies. Ostensibly, Mr. McInnis served on this board because he believes in the value of land preservation. As a U.S. Congressman, McInnis so closely linked himself with boosting land conservation that he even got his buddies in Congress to rename a 200,000 acre area public land on the western slope as “McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area,” even though doing so violated a House Rule created specifically to prohibit Congressmen from naming public works or lands after themselves.
Quite an accomplishment for Mr. McInnis.
So if we could presume that anyone on the western slope would be a champion for the value of land conservation, you would think it would be Scott McInnis, right?
Since being elected Mesa County Commissioner just last year, McInnis has suddenly turned skeptical of the value of land conservation, and so far, he hasn’t explained to the public why he’s had such a radical turnabout in his views.
When the Mesa Land Trust asked the Mesa County commissioners earlier this month for a letter supporting a Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant application to put a conservation easement on 22 acres of productive private agricultural land on East Orchard Mesa, McInnis threw on the brakes and denied the request, claiming — of all things — that he needs more time to learn about easements and what they mean for the county’s future.
McInnis is suddenly very concerned that conservation easements might be harmful to Mesa County because they protect land from development in perpetuity. He now suggests open lands only be conserved for just 30 years, instead protecting them in perpetuity for later generations to enjoy.
McInnis’ new stance is a 180-degree flip-flop on land conservation, and has rendered him a complete and total hypocrite on the subject.
Land conservation seemed valuable enough when it meant McInnis could get a federal conservation area name after himself, but now, not so much. The idea that it might be inappropriate for a private landowner to choose to preserve his or her own farmland for future generations is incredible. But if we are to now believe Mr. McInnis, this is what he thinks.
It’s not as though Mesa County citizens had no warning that McInnis would be untrustworthy in public office. His 2014 campaign for commissioner violated several laws and ordinances, his infamous plagiarism scandal while running for governor in 2010 and the subversive way he got federal lands named after him in 2004 in opposition to what Coloradans wanted all made it painfully clear that McInnis was far from being a decent candidate, to put it charitably.
So now that McInnis has suddenly changed his mind and believes land conservation is a bad idea, what happens now?
Maybe he will now be willing to let the name “McInnis Canyons” expire, so the conservation area so mistakenly named after him can revert back to its original name, “Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area.”
Or, if you’d rather not wait for that to become reality, we can initiate that action right now, so Mesa County citizens can finally end the embarrassment of having a national conservation area in their backyard named after a total hypocrite.
To get moving on fixing the “McInnis Canyons” mistake, click here to sign the petition to Colorado Senator Michael Bennet asking for legislation to revert “McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area” back to its original name, Colorado Canyons National Conservation area.