Archives for : buffer zones

If You Like Your Monument, Can You Keep Your Monument?



“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!”


National Park Retirees Seek to Change Protective Language in Draft Legislation


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:

National Park Status Could Put McInnis Canyons into Question

A story in the Salt Lake Tribune from April 2, 2014 titled, Westerners fear Obama preparing monuments land grabbrings into question claims by proponents that national park status will in no way effect boundaries or change existing jurisdiction over lands in or around the Colorado National Monument. According to the SL Tribune article, environmentalists are teaming with the Navajo Nation to turn a remote area abutting Canyonlands National Park into a protected area to be named “Diné Bikéyah National Conservation Area.” If Congress fails to create a conservation area their “Plan B” is to ask President Obama and his Department of the Interior to assert the executive power of the 1906 Antiquities Act and unilaterally designate it a national monument. The Antiquities Act has been used hundreds of times, with the stroke of the executive pen, to create national monuments and protected areas without public comment or approbation. Bill Clinton wielded the Antiquities Act in 1996 to create a new national monument in Utah, shutting off millions of acres of energy-rich land to development and devastating Utah’s coal industry. The Tribune article reads:

Two months before his 1996 re-election, President Bill Clinton stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona and declared 1.8 million acres of public land in Utah as the new Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. With a swipe of a pen, he canceled a proposed coal mine in what Hatch described then as the “mother of all land grabs.”

McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, created in 2005,  is a multi-use recreational area directly to the north and west of the existing CNM. Hunting, fishing, camping, horseback, hiking, and various other uses including some motorized vehicle access, are currently allowed in McInnis Canyons. That could all change, however, if the CNM were to be designated a national park. It’s even more likely to occur today than in the past with federal management agencies asserting unprecedented control over public lands. The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) is working with the National Park Service (NPS) to implement “Landscape-level conservation,” which regards national parks as simply “hubs within larger, landscape-level conservation efforts.” In their June 2011 report, “The State of Our National Parks,” they detail their goals, including:

New national park units should be established and some existing parks should be expanded to increase the diversity of the country’s natural and cultural heritage represented within the park system.(pg 5)

Proponents have repeated the mantra that there will be “no buffer zones,” with national park designation. But that contradicts the goals of the NPCA and NPS, and defies their very definition of a national park. With the stroke of a pen the President could use the Antiquities Act to create McInnis Canyons National Monument, completely changing the nature of human access to the area as well as its  jurisdiction. As the federal footprint increases in Western Colorado, the access to our energy rich public lands decreases, and good-paying jobs disappear. This is a very real scenario, and a process similar to that which could turn McInnis Canyons into a “national monument” buffer zone for the “Rim Rock Canyons National Park” is underway right now in Southern Utah. Caveats within the draft legislation designating CNM a national park are insufficient. Preserving our lands and lifestyles in Western Colorado means that even an additional inch of leverage cannot be given to Washington D.C., because they will inevitably take a mile, or a couple million acres.