“Only a change of Name” is the title of the song and dance routine proponents of national park status have used to try to sell their risky deal. The attempt to impose a new national park upon–and possibly beyond– where the Colorado National Monument now exists, recalls the “Lie of the Year” when the President promised, “If you like your healthcare, you can keep your healthcare.” Though the creation of a new national park is initially a congressional function, the distrust of government from the top down, is causing many to pause and wonder, despite the appeasing intonations of proponents, “If we like our Monument, can we keep our Monument?”
It’s a fair question, not just because distrust of Washington politicians and bureaucrats is at a fever pitch, but because the line that “it’s just a name change” sounds too simple–too good to be true. And it is. Besides the mere change of name to “Rim Rock Canyons National Park” and the signage, marketing materials, and other perfunctory matters that come with the change of a title, the rules of the game change as well. National Monument vs National Park is not a matter of prestige or reverence, it is a matter of greater powers given to the Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Environmental Protection Agency over the very air we breathe in Western Colorado, and the human activities that might affect what is in that air.
Despite cries of “prestige” and “tourist dollars” those of us who seek to preserve the Colorado National Monument realize that the change in status from Monument to Park is a change from protection to restriction. In the words of Senator Mark Udall, the proposed draft version of the bill that would create Rim Rock Canyons National Park is “unprecedented.” Why? Because the conditions upon which it has received support from local interests and organizations have never accompanied the creation of a national park in modern times. It’s unprecedented because national parks NEVER have the measure of local input that is in the draft legislation crafted by appointees under the direction of Mark Udall and Scott Tipton. It’s unprecedented because it simply doesn’t happen. “Just a name change” never happens. With national park status come new rules, new restrictions, and new powers to the National Park Service, BLM, EPA and other federal agencies.
Promises that protective caveats in the draft legislation will remain unchanged are laughable. There are no other national parks in western states that have Class II Air Quality standards. There are no other national parks in western states governed by a local advisory board. There are no other national parks is western states that don’t have, or plan to create, buffer zones.
Our local treasure is at risk if legislation is introduced. Now is the time to stop this bad idea in its tracks. Protective conditions in the draft legislation are unprecedented–which is a fancy way of saying “it just doesn’t happen.” Along with the name change will come federal control, Class I Air Quality Standards, and buffer zones where they can be created. It will be an ongoing fight for our lands and lifestyles in Western Colorado. The answer to the question, “if we like our Monument, can we keep our monument?” is a resounding “NO!”