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National Park Retirees Seek to Change Protective Language in Draft Legislation

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An email addressed to the sponsors of draft legislation that could potentially create a national park out of the existing Colorado National Monument deals a blow to proponents’ assurances that Mesa County and its residents would be protected from the same regulations and prohibitions governing other national parks. The email, dated April 25, 2014, from the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR) to Congressman Scott Tipton (R) Colorado, and Senator Mark Udall (D) Colorado, detailed their disagreements with the draft legislation in its current form. The CNPSR is one of many powerful organizations which lobby Congress and federal agencies on issues related to national parks.

The language in the current draft bill with which CNPSR disagrees are those provisions which were inserted into the bill to ensure that a new national park (in theory) would be compatible with the geographic, economic, and human features of its surroundings. Proponents have attempted to sell the idea of a new national park by assuring those living and working near the CNM that it would remain a Class II Area with no change in current EPA regulation of things such as “haze,” “viewsheds,” and air and water quality. They have also promised that buffer zones requiring the seizure of public or private lands adjacent to the Monument would be expunged from the bill.

Local control by individuals and interests in Western Colorado currently interacting with the CNM has also been considered an inviolable condition for national park status. But in its email the CNPSR actually mocks the creation of  a local advisory committee composed of people from Western Slope associations and businesses saying,

“The composition of this advisory committee, moreover, does not pass the “red face test.” It overwhelmingly represents local interests, some of which are not even park-related.”

Class I Area status, buffer zones, and loss of local control of our lands and lifestyles are exactly what make national park status unfeasible. Provisions protecting Mesa County and its residents from such things are exactly what the CNPSR finds unacceptable in the draft legislation. According to a Grand Junction Daily Sentinel article of May 7, 2014:

The coalition cited several objections to proposed provisions prohibiting a buffer zone for the park; assurances of existing air-quality rules and a proposed advisory committee in a letter to federal legislators.

“What is especially troubling about this draft legislation is that it contains no language concerning the essential reason for establishing a national park, i.e., preservation of its outstanding resources and values for the enjoyment of present and future generations, but rather contains many provisions that make achievement of that goal more difficult,” the letter said. “In fact, this bill raises such significant concerns that we have to wonder whether it was drafted in order to stop progress toward redesignating Colorado National Monument as a ‘national park.’”

It’s very unlikely that there are any plans by proponents to “stop progress” toward national park status. With that in mind, the revelations in this email expose the truth that many have suspected all along; that the draft legislation, with its current caveats and promises, will be altered, the provisions protecting the people and economy of Mesa County removed, and instead of gaining a nice addition to our list of local attractions, we will get a burdensome, job-destroying, D.C. bureaucrat-controlled, nightmare.

One cannot minimize the negative impact national park status would have on our local lands, lifestyles, economy, and long-term viability should it be achieved. No national park or Class I Area has ever been reversed. If proponents achieve their goal and win national park status, it will bring about devastating and irreversible changes to the very things that make Western Colorado a wonderful place to live.

The following are pages of the email from the Coalition of Park Service Retirees to Representative Tipton and Senator Udall: