Archives for : July2014

A Cautionary Tale About Inflated Numbers

Despite the fact that Congressman Scott Tipton has permanently abandoned any attempt to introduce legislation creating a restrictive national park where the Colorado National Monument now stands, you can bet that if Mark Udall wins in 2014 this issue will again rear its ugly and divisive head. The GJ Sentinel ran a recent editorial citing Pinnacles National Park as a remarkable example of economic benefit to nearby communities. But, as the editors of the Sentinel are wont to do, they omitted some critical facts relevant to their case. Here, author, historian and outdoors man Charles Quimby, clarifies and corrects that narrative.

pinnacles

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If you haven’t yet made up your mind about the Colorado National Monument/National Park question, let me offer one piece of advice. Never rely on numbers provided by local boosters—even if they are reported in your local newspaper.

The latest example appeared in a recent glowing report on the new Pinnacles National Park, suggesting similar economic results might be bestowed on us.

Pinnacles became a national park in January 2013, and according to local boosters in nearby Soledad, California, visitation is up 30% from its monument days. Local sales tax revenues are up 20%—even better than the 11% figure the same source gave a California reporter at the end of June!

At first I thought, maybe it’s true. A first year jump in attendance wouldn’t be unheard of, and it’s not hard to show a big percentage increase in a small economy. (Soledad, after all, has only one motel and a population of about 26,000, 40% of whom are incarcerated.)

But just to make sure, I checked the annual and monthly visitation data reported by the National Park Service for every park and monument in the country. 

It’s true attendance went up at Pinnacles in 2013 over 2012, although only by 6%. But 2013 was lower than in 2011 or 2010. One would have to go further back in history to come up with a 30% increase. 

Okay, maybe they meant so far in 2014. Nope. According to NPS numbers, each month has been well below the same month last year. At this rate, it’s likely 2014 will fall back to 2012 levels, a pattern seen in other monument-to-park conversions.

Making local economic boosters stick to the facts is beyond my powers, but I still hold out hope for better fact-checking of anecdotes and balanced reporting in my local paper.

Charles Quimby  July 9, 2014

Endnote courtesy of Kent Carson: 

Coincidentally, the city of Soledad raised its sales tax rate by 20% at the end of 2012.

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”~ Mark Twain

 

Congressman Scott Tipton Says “NO” to Restrictive National Park Status

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United States Congressman Scott Tipton of Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District released the following statement on July 7, 2014, giving his reasons for opposing the redesignation of the Colorado National Monument to a national park.

Friends of the Colorado National Monument has provided a platform from which the people of Western Colorado have been able to voice their opposition to the risks and restrictions of national park status for our beloved Colorado National Monument. Despite the “unabashed” advocacy by the region’s largest newspaper, and a 2 years-long campaign by proponents for national park status to force this bad idea onto the people of Western Colorado, our voices were heard and, at least for now, we can be grateful that the lands and lifestyle we hold dear will be preserved.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 7, 2014

Contact:

Josh Green

202-617-4395

 

Tipton Announces Opposition to Colorado National Monument Status Change

WASHINGTON— Citing a lack of community consensus and support, Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO) announced today that he will not draft or introduce any legislation that attempts to change the status of the Colorado National Monument to a national park, and will also actively oppose any attempts to do so in the House of Representatives. Tipton has stated throughout a two year community exploratory effort that local support and community consensus was required for any consideration of a change in the status or management of the Monument.

Tipton and Senator Mark Udall recently completed a 90 day period during which they solicited comments from the community on a proposal, crafted by a citizen working group, to change the Monument to a national park. The comments submitted to the offices clearly indicated that there was no consensus in the community on the issue, that the majority of Mesa County residents who submitted comments are opposed to national park status, and that there are significant concerns and uncertainty within the community over how regulation and Executive Branch rule-making could impact the local economy and existing industries should the status of the Monument change. Additionally, thousands of petition signatures on the Monument have been delivered to Tipton and Udall’s offices that also show a lack of local consensus or support for a change to the Monument’s status.

“While the Colorado National Monument is here for all of us to enjoy and explore, it is most intimate to the people of Mesa County and is integral to this community. From the beginning, I approached this process from the standpoint that should the community, with consensus from all sectors, want to change the Colorado National Monument to a national park, then I would, as their representative, listen to their input with the condition that it be done in a way that would have no adverse impact to existing industries or economic development,” said Tipton. “This process has made it clear that not only is there no community consensus on the issue, but that there are many concerns regarding potential adverse impacts the change could impose on the local economy with regard to increased regulation and federal government scrutiny.”

As part of the 90 day comment period, Tipton and Udall held a public listening session on May 17, during which the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel covered the lack of community consensus, reporting that, “Speakers on both sides of the issue, meanwhile, demonstrated that two years of discussion has done little to heal the fracture in the Grand Valley on the future of the monument.”

The Mesa County Board of Commissioners spoke to that division in a letter to Tipton and Udall on June 30, 2013 writing, “The Mesa County Board of Commissioners have been present at various meetings and events in which our constituents have been discussing the proposed conversion. It is clear to us that not only is there no consensus within our community but more polarization appears to be present with every dialogue we hear.”

During the May 17 public listening session and throughout the comment process many Mesa County citizens, both against and for park status, voiced concerns that the community could be negatively impacted should anything change with regard to current management and regulation of the Monument including air quality standards, buffer zones and travel on the Monument.

“The likelihood for legislation to pass both the House and Senate without impacting current air quality standards, buffer zones and travel on the monument is miniscule. Even if it did, it doesn’t pass the straight-face test to assume that it wouldn’t draw the attention of agency bureaucrats and generate a slew of litigation from outside groups pushing for more stringent restrictions that could drastically impact existing industries in Mesa County,” Tipton said. “Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the letter of the law would be followed by federal agencies. We’ve seen federal regulators circumvent Congressional intent in the law countless times in order to impose more restrictive rules and regulations—look no further than the EPA and Forest Service attempts currently underway to redefine their own regulatory scope in order to restrict access to private water rights. These types of agency actions create great uncertainty for impacted communities, restricting investment, job creation and prosperity. A change in the status of the Monument could at the very least create an increased level of uncertainty over future regulatory impacts to the Mesa County area, and possibly more stringent regulations in and around the Monument. When it comes to growing economic opportunity and creating jobs, it is done successfully through less regulatory uncertainty, not more.”

With a clear lack of community consensus or support for a change to park status, and abounding concerns and uncertainty that national park status could be detrimental to the region, Congressman Tipton opposes a change in status.

“In a region that has experienced firsthand the adverse impacts that federal agency decisions can have on the economy and access to public lands, the community’s concerns that a national park could attract additional scrutiny from federal regulators is well-founded. Just last month, without any notice or public consultation, the National Park Service announced that it would no longer allow the transport of vital fuels on Monument road to the residents of Glade Park. While the Park Service backpedaled on this overreach for the time being, it was a betrayal of the community’s trust and illustrative of the significant impact that agency decisions can have on the local community,” said Tipton. “From the beginning of this process I have said that any change in the status or management of the Monument must be community-driven and locally supported with broad community consensus. The lack of local support and consensus closes the issue and I will not draft nor introduce legislation to change the status of the Monument, and I will actively oppose any outside attempts to do so in the House of Representatives.”

Timeline:

May 19, 2011: At the request of local industry and economic development groups including CLUB 20, the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, West Slope COGA, and others Congressman Tipton and Senator Udall announce the formation of a community group to consider turning the Colorado National Monument into a national park.  The group was comprised of 16 community leaders, and ended up making no recommendation on whether or not to change the status of the Monument citing a lack of consensus in the community on the issue.

June 8, 2013: At the continued urging of local industry and economic development groups to continue the conversation on the Colorado National Monument and potential park status, Congressman Tipton and Senator Udall announce a citizen working group comprised of five members tasked with drafting recommendations to be incorporated should legislation be crafted to change the Monument to a national park.

April 1, 2014: Congressman Tipton and Senator Udall announce a 90 day public comment period on the recommendations made by the citizen working group regarding park status.

May 17, 2014: Congressman Tipton and Senator Udall hold a community listening session in Grand Junction on the working group proposal.

June 30, 2014: Completion of the 90 day public comment period.

Posted by Friends of the Colorado National Monument

Retired Park Ranger Weighs in AGAINST a National Park

Retired park ranger, William Solawetz of Grand Junction, reaffirms the case that Friends of the Colorado National Monument has made against national park status for the Colorado National Monument.

His compelling letter to the editor was printed in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel on July 4, 2014.

Delicate Arch Tourist Crowds

Tourists crowd the viewing area on the way to Delicate Arch in nearby Arches National Park.

Retired ranger concerned over monument redesignation

I am a retired Utah park ranger, manager and student of park management and design for over three decades. There are many reasons not to alter the current designation of Colorado National Monument, and I will mention a few.

I have visited the monument weekly, year-round since 2001. With relatively small increases in visitor use during that time, I have observed full parking lots at all times of year, as well as resource damage due to traffic overflow and congestion. Other damage has occurred from the creation of many social trails, vandalism and graffiti.

The monument is a very limited and finite resource. If money were invested, facilities could be improved and manpower increased, but there is little that can be done to mitigate the damage to the resource and the user experience, by flooding the area with more vehicles and footprints. Expansion of parking areas will only exacerbate crowding. Significant road improvement would destroy the resource we are attempting to preserve. Increases in global population and the subsequent travelers that come with it are more than enough for managers to contend with. You can help preserve John Otto’s legacy by not renaming the monument. It has been a monument for over 100 years.

While a very few people may benefit financially from a name change and the exposure it presents, the local population, visitors and the monument itself, as a natural resource that we have sworn to preserve, will be on the losing side.

Economic growth should not be a factor in deciding the designation of a national park. The purpose of designating an area as a national park or monument is to protect the area and its natural inhabitants for generations to come and for all Americans to share in its ownership and stewardship. This beautiful piece of canyon country is already protected and preserved with its monument designation. Any change in name or status would be redundant.

WILLIAM SOLAWETZ Grand Junction

The BLM’s Shocking Plan to Shut Down 140 Million Acres

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The internal Department of the Interior document titled “Treasured Landscapes”, was not meant to be released for public consumption. The House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee, however, obtained and published the 2009 draft in an effort to create public awareness of the shocking plan within the BLM and other government agencies to confiscate hundreds of millions of acres across the country through the creation of national monuments, national parks, wilderness areas and other protected zones.

The Introduction of this “discussion paper” details a 21st Century plan to “finalize appropriate conservation designations” of areas in the United States equivalent to the size of Wyoming and Colorado combined, overcoming “jurisdictional boundaries” (read state and private property rights) to create “a modern landscape-level management system…” In other words, the BLM, in concert with other agencies such as the National Park Service and Forest Service, plans to shut off roughly 1/10 of open American lands to human activity.

The “Treasured Landscapes” plan is being implemented by the current administration, as seen in a number of “Presidential declarations” which have, by executive order, created several new national monuments and protected areas without public comment or Congressional action. It gets worse.

Read the entire text of the internal document here: 

Friends of the Colorado National Monument has fought to keep a local treasure, a fixture of our daily lives, from undergoing a bureaucratic metamorphosis into a restrictive and risky national park. As plans of federal government agencies are revealed, it becomes clear that they view human beings as a problem to be solved, and not as citizens to be served.

Please read and share this chilling document with everyone you know.