A story in the Salt Lake Tribune from April 2, 2014 titled, Westerners fear Obama preparing monuments land grab, brings 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.