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KUNC is among the founding partners of the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration of public media stations that serve the Western states of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Swamp Creatures Appear Outside Hotel Where Western Governors Meet With Bernhardt

Rae Ellen Bichell
Mountain West News Bureau
Protesters in Vail, Colo., preparing to march outside the hotel where governors of Western states are meeting with members of the Trump administration, including Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.

Protesters dressed as swamp creatures kayaked down a river while others marched along a bike path, past private tennis courts and swanky swimming pools outside the hotel where governors met with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.

“My shirt says keep your oily hands off of Colorado's public lands,” says Chelsea Stencel, who was among the protesters. “David Bernhardt, the ultimate swamp monster.”

Credit Rae Ellen Bichell / Mountain West News Bureau
Mountain West News Bureau
"Do you want to protect our public lands?" Emily Gedeon, conservation program director with the Colorado Sierra Club, asked protesters.

Bernhardt has been compared to a swamp monster on multiple occasions for his former business ties to the industries that he’s now in charge of regulating, as the Mountain West News Bureau has reported.

Protesters came from across the state, including Fort Collins and Greeley, and were concerned about policies to open up public lands for oil and gas drilling.

“He's leasing the public lands to oil and gas and uranium mining for sometimes $1.50 an acre, which is obscene,” says Deborah McLaughlin.

Credit Rae Ellen Bichell / Mountain West News Bureau
Mountain West News Bureau
A truck outside the hotel where Interior Secretary David Bernhardt spoke with Western governors.

Others worry about potential increases in mining, including a plan to expand a limestone quarry in nearby Glenwood Springs.

“Right above Glenwood Springs, which would really devastate that whole community,” says Jerry Berg. “(Bernhardt) is an oil and gas lobbyist in charge of our public lands. And so we're here to protest that.”

The Western Governors Association meeting will continue through Wednesday. Topics on the docket include fighting invasive species, delivering broadband connectivity to rural areas and forecasting water resources.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.