Archives for : Glade Park

Winning the Fight for our Lands and Lifestyle in Western Colorado

sunset

As Friends of the Colorado National Monument, we are simply a group of people who live near the Monument and want to preserve its beauty, accessibility, and balanced relationship with its human neighbors, and I would urge you to take time and reflect on our great success. Coming together informally about one year ago, and more informally two months ago, giving ourselves a name, website, and mission statement, we have brought the issues facing the Grand Valley, and the possible negative impact of national park status, to the attention of thousands in Mesa County. The troubling attitude and punishing policies of National Park Service director at CNM, Lisa Eckert, have made news statewide, and our message has caught the attention in many in Utah who know how national parks can change the economic and cultural landscape of a region for decades, turning towns with mixed economies into tourist attractions with low-paying service jobs and little opportunity, while driving out industry and development because of the crushing EPA restrictions that come with national park status.

There are many who have dedicated their time, money, talent, and hearts to this cause, and it appears that Friends of the Colorado National Monument has a message which IS resonating with the public as well as our local leaders in Western Colorado.

We are conservationists. Unlike those bureaucrats in far-flung offices somewhere in Washington D.C. and Federal Buildings in capitol cities, we do not live in artificial environments. We do not view the nature around us from the point of policy makers, but as inhabitants. We don’t think of our natural resources in theoretical terms, we depend on then, and so preserve them to the best of our ability. We do not look at pretty pictures of Western Colorado and say, “that should be a national park,” we interact with the Colorado National Monument on a daily basis.

It is the backdrop to our homes. It is the haven of our solace and hope. It is the friend we call upon to help us remember what is really important in life, and what is truly permanent. It is the gateway to twilight as the sun tumbles down its  northern rim anticline, to wink out in a brilliant good night on the western desert. It is our home.

And we are its stewards. That’s why it’s simply not necessary to turn this highly protected national monument into a national park which will inevitably place unnecessary and harmful restrictions on our lives and our livelihoods. Let’s keep the balance. Let’s preserve the environment. Let’s keep the Colorado National Monument as it is.

 

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.

 

Does National Park Status Endanger Water Rights on Glade Park?

National Park Service Photo Great Sand Dunes

National Park Service Photo
Great Sand Dunes

One of Colorado’s newer protected areas-turned-national park, the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, was created with water rights as a foremost justification for the change from national monument to national park. Originally designated as a national monument in 1932, with the help of then United States Congressman Scott McInnis, Great Sand Dunes was re-named a national park in 2004. Located in a remote region 35 miles northeast of Alamosa, Great Sand Dunes sits atop an aquifer long coveted by the Front Range and targeted by proposals to export waters to thirsty communities to the east. In December of 2004, following its redesignation to a park in September of the same year, the National Park Service, represented by the U.S. Department of Justice, filed an application for all rights to the water within the aquifer and seasonal runoff that feeds into it.  As a result:

*Following a short trial, during which the court heard testimony from experts in hydrogeology, herpetology, and wetlands ecology, the judge signed the decree entitling the National Park Service to an absolute water right to appropriate in-place all unappropriated groundwater in the unconfined aquifer beneath the park.

*From Park Science Magazine

The water rights story of Great Sand Dunes National Park remains uncontroversial, despite the fact that little has changed, including visitation and tourist dollars, since its redesignation in 2004. There are however, a number of observations in its history that should lend caution to proponents of national park status who claim that “water rights will not be at issue” regarding the Colorado National Monument.  Those observations include:

  • Great Sand Dunes is 35 miles from the nearest town and has no agricultural operations within its immediate vicinity.
  • The National Park Service applied for water rights AFTER it became a national park. This fact invalidates proponents’ arguments that legislation redesignating CNM as a national park fixes all the protective provisions upon which its acceptance is predicated.
  • The National Park Service was given “an absolute water right” within the new park.

Colorado National Monument has no permanent bodies of water within its boundaries, but it is crossed by season washes and streams that travel downhill toward the Grand Valley. But–and it is a significant but–the CNM is immediately adjacent to the highly-developed towns of Grand Junction and Fruita, as well as the agricultural town of Glade Park rising above its canyons to the southwest. Glade Park and the plateau where it is located has several large bodies of water, such as the 3 Thompson Reservoirs, and numerous reservoirs near Pinion Mesa. Given that the NPS applied for water rights in Great Sand Dunes AFTER its redesignation it is not outside the realm of possibility that at some point, given the right circumstances, they could also attempt to exert power over the reservoirs and creeks immediately outside the new national park.

The Secretary of the Interior and Department of the Interior–which oversees the National Park Service–for the past several years has attempted to lay claim over several western waterways OUTSIDE of national parks, designating them as National Blueways.  The House Resources Committee penned a letter to Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewel, demanding clarity about the “National Blueways” initiative since it appeared that water rights to the entire 18 million acre White River Watershed had been assumed by the DOI, which unilaterally designated it a National Blueway.

Unlike any other national park in the West, the CNM is literally surrounded by human development. Glade Park is an agricultural town with farms, cattle ranches, livestock, and horse operations. Its water resources serve the residents of Glade Park and Fruita, and provide recreational opportunities during the warm months of the year. History tells us that the National Park Service can, and has, applied for water rights after the creation of a national park. Current events tell us that the Department of the Interior is laying claim to American waterways outside national parks, without the consent of the people of the states. The promise that “water rights won’t be an issue” with national park status, is just as empty as the potholes on top of the Colorado National Monument during the heat of summer.