In 2020, Colorado has one of the most competitive U.S. Senate races in the country, and the political attack ads have already begun.

The left wing’s opening salvo, including Conservation Colorado’s recent piece published in The Colorado Sun, claims that Sen. Gardner has not delivered on his campaign promises to support the environment.

Jon Anderson

Conservation experts will tell you that could not be further from the truth.  

While many Republicans have dodged difficult issues related to conservation and the environment, Sen. Gardner leaned in and took a critical leadership role to address these challenges head on.

Sen. Gardner has driven balanced solutions that not only improve the environment, but also support the U.S. economy. Sen. Gardner has driven bipartisan environment and conservation solutions at a time Washington, D.C., has virtually succumbed to partisan gridlock.  

This pragmatic, solutions-based approach is exactly what voters should demand from our elected officials and should reject extreme positions that get nowhere and pulls our country apart.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Distinguishing political spin from facts can be tricky, so let’s examine Sen. Gardner’s actual record on environment and conservation issues since he was elected U.S. senator less than  five years ago:  

  • Sen. Gardner led the most significant conservation legislation in a decade. Sen. Gardner led a bipartisan effort to pass what The Washington Post described as “the most sweeping conservation legislation in a decade, protecting millions of acres of land and hundreds of miles of wild rivers across the country.” The legislation combined more than 100 different conservation bills and permanently reauthorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which funds critical outdoor projects across America without any taxpayer dollars.   
  • Sen. Gardner earned national parks award. The National Parks Conservation Association awarded Sen. Gardner with the National Park Heritage Award in 2019 to recognize his leadership on public lands and conservation issues.
  • Sen. Gardner championed renewable energy before it was trendy. In 2015, Sen. Gardner was a leader in crafting a bipartisan agreement on tax credits for wind and solar (PTC & ITC) that would gradually ramp down, giving industry the certainty it needed to drive investments and make the renewable resource market competitive. Again in 2017, Sen. Gardner played a pivotal role in stopping proposed tax changes from wiping out the PTC and ITC.  Today, Sen. Gardner is part of a bipartisan group of U.S. senators working toward the expansion of incentives for large-scale batteries and other energy storage projects. These efforts have resulted in renewable energy emerging as a cost-competitive resource that contributes to an all-of-the-above energy balance. 
  • Sen. Gardner announced as 2018 U.S. wind champion.  In 2018, Sen. Gardner was named U.S. Wind Champion for the 115th Congress by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). “The Senator fights tirelessly creating opportunity for Coloradans, crafting fair tax policy, strengthening energy security with transmission infrastructure, and securing funding for breakthrough wind power research at NREL,” said AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan.
  • Sen. Gardner demands climate response based on science.  Sen. Gardner is a national leader for science-based research and technologies to combat climate change. In 2017, Sen. Gardner co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to shield scientific agencies from political interference — an effort that drew high praise from the scientific community. “We are gratified that these Senators have not only helped to advance Earth and space science but also have put aside partisanship to further sound science policy,” the American Geophysical Union said.  
  • Sen. Gardner receives science champion award. In 2019, The Science Coalition presented Sen. Gardner with its distinguished Champion of Science Award, which honors leaders whose actions and votes consistently reflect their commitment to fundamental science research.
  • Sen. Gardner established caucus to drive bipartisan solutions.  Just last week, Sen. Gardner founded a GOP conservation caucus. The new Roosevelt Conservation Caucus will “embrace and promote constructive efforts to resolve conservation and environmental problems that align with market-based approaches and promote American ingenuity.”

Sen. Gardner’s accomplishments on environmental and conservation policy are objectively remarkable for a first-term U.S. senator. According to Georgetown University and the Lugar Center, Sen. Gardner is one of the top five most effective members for driving bipartisan solutions in the U.S. Senate.

While Colorado’s 2020 U.S. Senate race will draw outlandish claims from all sorts of special interest groups, Sen. Gardner’s record delivering balanced, bipartisan solutions to environmental and conservation challenges is beyond reproach.  

Jon Anderson is a Denver-based attorney who founded The Western Way, a nonprofit organization that identifies and promotes market-based solutions to environmental and conservation challenges facing the Western U.S. 

Special to The Colorado Sun