Archives for : Access

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

closed

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.

 

National Park Service: Good Neighbor or Bully?

The unilateral decision by the Superintendent of the Colorado National Monument, Lisa Eckert, to ban what she calls ‘hazardous materials’ loads from using Monument Road to reach the ranching community of Glade Park, has stirred up a hornet’s nest of indignation–and for good reason. More than 100 residents of Glade Park crowded into the town’s small Community Center along with 2 Mesa County Commissioners and members of the county’s planning board. Following a short presentation on the Glade Park Plan, the focus of the meeting quickly turned to the unfriendly, and some would say hostile, decision by the National Park Service (NPS)  to ban cargo such as propane, fertilizer, and other essentials from entering the Colorado National Monument. (Please refer to the previous article)

One county commissioner had a copy of a letter dated June 14, printed on official National Park Service letterhead from Eckert that was supposedly delivered to all the residents of Glade Park. None of the residents present at the community meeting recognized the letter announcing the decision to prohibit “hazardous cargo” on the Monument effective August 1, 2014. The letter also contained references to “listening sessions” held by the NPS to field “concerns” about safety on Monument Road. Except for a meeting last March, no one could recall an actual process where Eckert or her fellow rangers received significant public input about the decision. Below is a copy of Eckert’s letter:

The thing most troubling to the residents of Glade Park is the utter disregard for their lives and livelihoods. The National Park Service acting unilaterally to impose a harmful rule without input from locals is, in the words of one county commissioner, “unacceptable.” Park Service representatives at the Glade Park meeting promised to revisit the issue and convey the residents’ concerns to Lisa Eckert, who conveniently was not present. This story is certainly not over. Monument Road has been litigated in the past, and may again be litigated if the NPS fails to reverse its groundless new policy. Mesa County Commissioners and the ranchers of Glade Park have, in the past, counted on the NPS to maintain a “cooperative relationship” with all players, but not unlike other federal agencies in other states, they are looking less like a good neighbor, and more like the bully next door.

Lisa Eckert, the Superintendent of the Colorado National Monument who seeks to ban fuel haulers from Monument Road can be reached at  (970) 858-3617 ext. 300

National Park Service Director Unilaterally Bans Fuel Haulers in Monument

CO-poi-colorado-national-monument-af

With little public input from the people of the ranching community or Glade Park and without consulting with the Board of Commissioners in Mesa County, the National Park Service (NPS) Director at the Colorado National Monument (CNM), Lisa Eckert, announced that vehicles containing “hazardous” cargo would be banned from using the route they have used for decades.

The road in question is Monument Road, which joins the road to Glade Park just a few miles inside the boundaries of the CNM. Ranchers and other residents of Glade Park, a rural community situated on the plateau above the Colorado National Monument, use Monument Road to haul goods, equipment, hay, fertilizer, livestock, fuel, and other necessities, to and from their operations. Eckert seeks to prohibit all these materials, whether or not they present a danger to traffic on the Monument and despite the fact that there have been no reports of ‘hazardous materials’ being released into the environment due to an accident on the road.

A Grand Junction Daily Sentinel article by Gary Harmon, dated June 14, details the unilateral decision made by the National Park Service:

Trucks hauling propane or other fuels to Glade Park no longer will be allowed to deliver to their customers via Monument Road as of Aug. 1, the National Park Service told residents.

Monument Road is being ruled out as a route for Glade Park deliveries because of safety concerns that were aired in listening sessions with Glade Park and other residents, Colorado National Monument Superintendent Lisa Eckert said.

This decision deals a blow to the residents of Glade Park, most of whom use propane for heating and require shipments of gasoline and other fuels for their farming equipment. Ranchers and farmers depend on the easy access that Monument Road provides from the Grand Valley to Glade Park at the top of the Monument. The only alternative route is Little Park Road to the east of Monument Road which is longer, more difficult to navigate, and must pass through neighborhoods on several narrow, unimproved byways. Little Park Road presents many obstacles to those hauling goods to Glade Park, and increases the likelihood of future accidents.

This action by the NPS was taken without regard for the personal and property rights of the citizens living adjacent to protected lands. Harmon’s article goes on to illustrate this “bad neighbor” attitude with the words of one Glade Park resident:

“The notice comes as two federal lawmakers are considering legislation to redesignate Colorado National Monument as a national park and it undermines promises that nothing about the monument would change,” Glade Park resident Lynn Grose said.

Grose sat on a committee that in 2011 and 2012 studied the pros and cons of park status.

“We were promised over and over that there would be no change,” Grose said. “Now they’re making changes without even a national-park designation.”

This development makes national park designation more problematic because it provides a real-time example of government overreach, however the NPS must deal with the precedent which established permanent access to Monument Road for vehicles traveling to glade Park. Litigated in 1986, Wilkenson vs. Department of the Interior, was the landmark lawsuit brought against the NPS by some residents of Glade Park to establish access through the Monument via Monument Road. The National Park Service was rebuffed by the United States District Court in the final decision which gave ranchers and residents, regardless of what they might be hauling, full, free, and permanent access to Monument Road as the main route to and from their homes and work in Glade Park. Attempts by the NPS to levy fees for use of the road, as well as ban commercial traffic, were rejected by the court. The decision on behalf of Glade Park residents was unequivocal:

ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED, that a public right of way exists in that portion of Rim Rock Drive extending from the East entrance of the Colorado National Monument to the Glade Park Cut-Off, and across the Glade Park Cut-Off, connecting the DS Road in Glade Park with the Monument Road to Highway 340, and the use of that road for the purpose of continuous travel through the Monument is a non-recreational use for which no entrance fee may lawfully be charged, and the defendants are enjoined from charging any such fee or otherwise preventing such non-recreational use of the roadways. The Clerk shall enter judgment, accordingly, and the plaintiffs are awarded their costs upon the filing of a bill of costs within 10 days from the entry of judgment.

The latest decision by the National Park Service is clearly unlawful, and ultimately damaging to the hoped-for redesignation of the Colorado National Monument to a national park. It’s unlikely that this is the end of the ongoing saga of the battle for Monument Road, now waged for decades by the National Park Service against residents of Glade Park, over what is in essence, a lifeline sustaining a small ranching community on the outskirts of the Colorado National Monument.

 

Will National Park Status Limit Access for School Groups? Climbers?

lizardmonument

Although nearby Colorado national monuments-turned-national parks have struggled to attract visitors, other national parks such as Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite are mulling the imposition of quotas for peak visitation times. Despite the fact that access to campsites, lodging, guided tours and other national park features require special arrangements, sometimes years in advance, simply entering a park does not. But as seasonal overcrowding, overuse, and destruction at national parks becomes increasingly problematic, it is possible that reservations will be required for simply visiting for an hour or two.

Bob Janiskee wrote an article for National Parks Traveler in February 2008 detailing one scenario which might result as the National Park Services grapples with emerging usage issues. It says:

In the worst case scenario, the Park Service might have to adopt truly draconian measures. Some observers believe that it is only a matter of time before we see strict entrance and recreational facility quotas employed. A few have suggested that access to national parks and their recreational facilities might best be regulated by a national lottery, and that a “white market” for park permits should be allowed to flourish.

Here is how it would work. The Park Service would use the best available scientific methods to determine the recreational carrying capacity, acceptable limits of change, and other limiting factors in parks that experience serious overcrowding and related facilities overuse during peak seasons. The key question is how much access and use can be permitted without seriously reducing recreational quality or causing unacceptable damage to physical and cultural resources in the parks.

The agency would then set peak-period quotas for admission and recreational facilities use at the “problem parks.” Each quota would express the maximum number of permits to be issued for visiting a particular park and engaging in specified recreational activities during a specified period of time. The quotas would be partially filled through allocations to tour operators, park concessionaires, various other commercial recreation providers, and presumably some national NGOs. The remaining permits would be allocated to the public via lottery.

Peak traffic times at the Colorado National Monument have already maxed-out roads, parking turnouts, and campsites. As the NPS mulls “draconian measures” to manage burgeoning crowds within fragile natural environments, one cannot help but worry that even locals may someday have to wait to win the lotto in order to simply visit the treasure they see out their back windows everyday.

A school groups hikes a geologically interesting trail near Devil's Kitchen

A school groups hikes a geologically interesting trail near Devil’s Kitchen

With its current designation the Colorado National Monument is very accessible to school groups in the months from March to November. For small groups guided by parents and teachers no special arrangements are needed. For larger school groups doing educational, ranger-guided trips, they may do so with only a week or two advanced notice. Up to 100 students in a group can easily navigate most of the shorter trails in relative safety without the congestion, stress, and increased danger presented by tourists in large guided, or unguided groups.

MSCVD 51 "STEM" Summer School students enjoy a cliff side view

MSCVD 51 “STEM” Summer School students enjoy a cliff side view

Rappelling and climbing are also allowed within the CNM. Many hikers will use rappelling gear to drop into canyons during their excursions. Some groups simply like to focus on rappelling down cliff faces as a sole activity. Independence Rock, the literal heart of the CNM, is a destination for climbers. The traditional 4th of July planting of the American Flag at the top of Independence Rock goes back a hundred years.  Two years ago the NPS tried to ban climbing within Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and although some Western Senators were able to convince the NPS to postpone the ban, similar measures are being considered in other parks.

In 2013 the NPS created new “Wilderness Climbing Rules” that limit climbing and rappelling activities in many national parks, and could do so in what is now the Colorado National Monument. The new climbing rules would allow the NPS to remove existing bolts and ban the placing of new ones in certain areas. The Wilderness Climbing Rules also includes a “prior authorization” clause requiring climbers to “approach” park officers to place bolts, and even removable pitons. This means that climbers would have to apply to receive permission from the NPS–a possibly months or years-long process–to engage in the climbing and rappelling activities they so enjoy, and have done so for decades with few barriers.

Those pushing national park status for the Colorado National Monument seem to ignore the negative consequences that come with such a change; consequences that can be seen at other national parks throughout the country. Is losing access to our sustainable, relatively pristine local treasure worth the false “prestige” that comes with the title “National Park?”