Club 20

Service on the Club 20 board

logo of Club 20

Club 20 is an old organization representing the counties of Colorado west of the Continental Divide. It’s original purpose was to help the Western Slope compete for road money. It grew into a general purpose political organization with a conservative bent. “Conservative” as in old-style conservatism, not the insane, radical, hardly conservative nature of the current Republican Party. Club 20 opposed Wilderness and other public lands preservation initiatives, while promoting extractive uses such as mining, logging, and livestock grazing. But you would never see that organization promulgating The Big Lie or other fundamental threats to American democracy. They actually are excellent participants in our democracy.

Elections to the board occur through a simple, semi-annual gathering of individual Club 20 members. Some friends and I participated and elected me and friend Fritz Diether to the board, representing Gunnison County. I participated actively for several years and typically presented a minority viewpoint, saying that mining destroys land and water, that logging is usually done poorly or rapaciously.

But Club 20 board members all agreed on one thing: Projects to move Western Slope water to the Eastern Slope should end. So I suggested that I was “loyal opposition.” If you check out their extensive policy positions, you will probably find some that you agree with.

So my time with Club 20 was certainly not all conflict. Relationships were quite respectful, cordial, and decent. Members who sharply disagreed with me would actually listen to to my ideas and sometimes offer reasonable argument. I may have even influenced some of them.

A most fun part of my service was the Club 20 lobbying trip to Washington, DC. We met with our senator and House representative, and even with the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, a Republican from western suburbs of Chicago. Hastert was probably moderate by today’s standards. (Same is true for Ronald Reagan.) A high school wrestling coach, Hastert ended up in prison for sexually molesting boys that he coached. Below is a photo of me with the Speaker of the House.

Another liberal on the board was Art Goodtimes, a long-haired lefty and San Miguel County Commissioner from Telluride. Club 20 promulgated a myth that the beautiful, ecologically lush aspen forests of western Colorado need to be logged because they are getting too old and are getting invaded by pine, spruce, and fir. Goodtimes, Diether and I Diether wrote a rebuttal:

Yes, the natural life of the aspen tree is roughly 120 years and many are now that old and yes, coniferous trees are growing in their midst. But aspens are a pioneer species, meaning they come in after disturbances like fire or insect plague that kill or reduce the coniferous forests. So aspen forests are increasing in many locations. Furthermore, aspens have inter-connected roots. What looks like many trees is actually the “boles” of a single, gigantic organism. So Aspens are close to the largest organisms on Earth. The roots can lie dormant for hundreds of years while a coniferous forest grows above them. Then a fire destroys that forest and the aspens quickly sprout new boles and take over for another hundred years or more. Long live the aspens!

In 2000, Gary met the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert.
Gary's Club 20 membership certificate