This White Paper constitutes a body of research supporting our argument that changing the status of the Colorado National Monument to that of a national park is a misguided idea being promoted with half-truths by some with hidden agendas. This compilation is simply a foundation block for on-going research, reports of current events, and forthcoming documents that will be presented to the public as we expose the truth about the driving forces behind “national park status,” and the dangers to our economic well-being and individual freedom presented by such a change.
~Friends of the Colorado National Monument
The Colorado National Monument (CNM) was literally carved out of the sandstone of Western Colorado by the erosive forces of nature and the industrious hands of frontiersman and miner John Otto. Established as a national monument in 1911, the trails cut by John Otto, to this day, provide access for locals and tourists who wish to experience the stunning vistas, heart-stopping cliff faces, and unusual red rock formations within its rugged boundaries. Relatively small in area in comparison to other national monuments and national parks, the Colorado National Monument is considered a hometown treasure in Mesa County, Colorado. Its narrow roads are used by runners, cyclists, and cars during the months when they are not closed by snow and ice. Many paths into the CNM have trailheads outside of its boundaries where locals enter into the monument for hiking and other activities without having to pay access fees to the National Park Service (NPS), which currently manages the Monument. The Colorado National Monument is literally nestled in the midst of suburban neighborhoods which abut its boundaries, farms and livestock operations, a school, and the town of Glade Park, perched on the plateau above its red rock canyons. Roads passing through the CNM provide access to the town of Glade Park, as well as farms, ranches, campgrounds, fishing reservoirs, and other public and private properties. The Colorado National Monument is not simply a local treasure to the residents of Mesa County who live nearby, it is also in reality, their back yard.
A variety of interests have lobbied recently to change the Colorado National Monument designation to that of Rim Rock Canyons National Park. A resolution drafted by Senator Mark Udall, (D) Colorado, purports that changing the status of this monument will benefit immediate localities. There are, however, significant differences between the CNM, and other national parks in Colorado and other states. The physical differences in setting, geology, and proximity to towns between the CNM and existing national parks are significant, and predictions of an economic windfall extolled by supporters of the change must be examined carefully. Research on the issues related to national park status for the CNM reveal essential conflicts between the best interests of those who live nearby, local industries, and the delicately balanced natural environment in and around this treasure in Western Colorado.
Hot Desert Air, or, Where’s the real data supporting boasts of economic benefit?
There exists no factual basis for projections of an ensuing economic boom by proponents of national park status. With national park and national monument visitation declining in recent years, fluctuations in numbers either way are not affected by the “Park” or “Monument” designation.
- Proponents of national park status assert that the “prestige” and marketability of a national park vs. a national monument will draw increased visitation of both domestic and foreign visitors. There exists no appreciable difference, however, between visitor revenue generated by large and small national parks and the existing CNM.
- In 2012 nearby Canyonlands National Park generated $55.65 per visitor, the very large Blue Ridge National Park generated $59.40 per visitor, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park generated $57.27 per visitor, and the Colorado National Monument generated $58.47 per visitor. Given that CNM is small in comparison to other national parks, and easily traversed by car within an hour, it is unlikely that visitor spending would increase.
- See Appendix I
- Visitation to federally-managed parks, monuments, and recreation areas has gradually decreased over time. Although NPS reports indicate that per visitor spending increased slightly in 2012, they offer no data proving that spending is directly due to park visitation. NPS reports fail to detail critical data such as; profit vs. expenses, dollars spent inside a park vs. those spent outside on private commercial industries, increases in fuel, lodging, and food costs, domestic vs. foreign tourism, etc.
- National park status does not bring in more visitors or money. Visitor spending in nearby national parks in recent years trends almost identically with the CNM and is based largely on local and national economic conditions, gas prices, and other extrinsic factors which are not related to the “prestige” of national park status. Since CNM is small, the potential for adding features that might generate more revenue; such as a museum, additional visitor centers, more camping areas, or other recreation or lodging facilities within its boundaries, is doubtful.
- The National Parks System has been in financial trouble for decades.As of fiscal year 2010 the NPS faced an annual operating shortfall of $600 million. National parks are also facing a backlog of maintenance and repair projects of $11 billion. If national park status creates explosions in visitor numbers, why does the NPS perpetually fall short of its necessary funding? According to a PEW survey of 2013, national conservation areas, monuments, and parks, which have suffered for decades with budget shortfalls and poor management, are doing “less with less.” It makes no sense to take the CNM, which is relatively well-managed and maintained at its current capacity, and change it to a national park when budgets are already inadequate.
As columnist Charles Quimby wrote in “High Country News” in 2013,
- …the economic claims struck me as overblown.
- According to Park Service reports, the three national parks created in the region since 1994 have not brought marked visitor growth after being upgraded from national monuments.
- The new revenue produced would be the equivalent of one McDonald’s store’s annual sales. That’s hardly “critical to stabilizing the local economy,” as claimed by one park advocacy group.
- Clearly, there’s a risk of a dissonant outcome. Consider Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in the heart of Utah’s popular canyon country, where it’s a challenge for a visitor to find a place to stay or a friendly set of directions.
- The Grand Valley is already the region’s educational and health-care center, and it’s developing a reputation as a cycling and wine-tasting Mecca. See the full article here: http://www.hcn.org/wotr/con-colorado-national-monument-should-not-become-a-national-park
- See park visitor spending reports here:
“National Park” Status Does NOT Boost Visitor Numbers
Overall visitor numbers to parks, monuments, and recreation areas has steadily decreased over the last two decades. Visitation to other national monuments in Colorado which have recently been changed to national parks has remained flat or has decreased since their redesignation. Find the complete visitor statistics report here: https://irma.nps.gov/Stats/SSRSReports
- The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, located in Western Colorado, which received national park status in 1999, has seen an overall drop in visitation since its redesignation. The IRMA report of National Park Visitor Statistics shows no increase in numbers of recreational visitors since the year prior to the change, with 319,322 in 1993, 193,451 in 1998, 219,567 in 2007, 192,570 in 2012, dropping further to 175,852 in 2013.
- Great Sand Dunes National Park, located in Southern Colorado, which had its designation changed from a national monument to a national park in 2004, has seen virtually no increase in overall visitation since that time. In 1998 total recreational visitors numbered 279,768, with 251,375 in 2003, 285,121 in 2007, and dropping to 254,674 in 2012 and 242,821 in 2013.
- Mesa Verde National Park, a well-established national park located in the Four Corners region of Colorado, enjoyed a high of 772,183 in 1988 followed by a gradual decrease over the next 25 years, with 604,556 in 1998, 541,102 in 2007, and dropping to 488,860 in 2012 and 460,237 in 2013.
Nearby Recreation Areas and National Monuments
- Curecanti National Recreation Area, also located in Western Colorado, enjoys much greater visitation than nearby national parks and national monuments, but those numbers have decreased over the last 20 years with 1,089,098 in 1993, 973,652 in 1998, 964,640 in 2007, falling to 862,612 in 2012 and 814,163 in 2013.
- Dinosaur National Monument, located in Northwestern Colorado, also sees fewer visitors now than in decades past with 534,274 in 1993, 420,295 in 1998, 230,914 in 2007, 302,858 in 2012, dropping to 274,361 in 2013.
- Colorado National Monument had 450,677 recreational visitors in 1993, 291,690 in 1998, 395,260 in 2007, and 454,510 in 2012 followed by a slight drop to 409,351 in 2013. At its peak, CNM, was traversed by 300 tour busses (motor coaches) annually, but in recent years that number has dropped to around 100. The decrease in bus tours is likely due to the overall drop in long-distance travelers to national parks and monuments, resulting in a higher ratio of local visitors traveling in personal vehicles. CNM has not changed designation, and like other national parks and national monuments, its visitor load is affected by numerous extrinsic factors including the national economy, increased entrance fees, the price of gasoline, etc. A 2012 study by the University of Georgia confirmed the fact that periods of economic recession drive down park visitation. See more here: http://news.uga.edu/releases/article/recession-drives-down-national-park-visitation-101812/
Overall Park Visitation has Leveled Off with Most Visitors Attending War Memorials and Historically Famous National Parks Such as the Grand Canyon and Great Smoky Mountains
The following graphs from the NPS visitor statistics website show that park visitation reached a plateau over two decades ago and that most park visitation and spending occurs at large war memorials close to urban centers, and historically famous parks. Smaller parks and monuments, due to remoteness and the cost of gasoline, etc. are least likely to be visited and take in fewer dollars per visitor.
- Local car traffic to Glade Park accounts for a high percentage of the visitor count entering the CNM via the East Entrance of the Monument.
- It’s worth noting that the NPS record of monthly comments on traffic and visitation for the Colorado National Monument credit mild weather for periods of increased visitation. Broken or malfunctioning traffic counters were also noted several times over the period from 2005 to present. See the NPS report here: https://irma.nps.gov/Stats/SSRSReports/Park%20Specific%20Reports/Monthly%20Visitation%20Comments%20By%20Park?Park=COLM
Significant Opposition to National Park Status
or, “Calling a frog a puppy, just because more people like puppies,
does not make it so. “
- A survey conducted by the Colorado National Monument Advisory Committee in 2011-2012 found that residents of the communities near and immediately adjacent to the CNM were evenly split. The survey found that forty percent opposed the change, forty percent favored it, and the remaining twenty percent were undecided. Though non-scientific, the CNM Advisory Committee survey has been the only large scale effort to gauge the opinions of local citizens regarding the matter.
- A petition opposing the change in designation was initiated by individuals living in Fruita, the Redlands, and other areas close to the CNM. The group gathered in excess of 1,500 signatures and submitted copies of the petition to the offices of Representative Scott Tipton (R) Colorado, and Senator Mark Udall (D) Colorado.
- As noted in the GJ Sentinel on April 26, 2012, parties opposed to and in support of changing the CNM to a national park are evenly divided.
- Although the public comment period regarding redesignation is ongoing, Representative Scott Tipton’s Grand Junction office staff noted that as of April 29, 2014, the “majority” of comments coming to his office have been in opposition to redesignation of the CNM to a national park.
- Senator Mark Udall’s Grand Junction office declined to comment on the division of opposing and supporting comments.
- Although several organizations have thrown support behind the redesignation, there exists no evidence that a majority of residents in Western Colorado favor the change.
- What does the public think? **
- “The urbanized area of the Grand Valley is visible from all of the viewpoints along Rim Rock Drive. Only for a few miles in the interior canyons can one escape views of the road or the urbanized valley.”
- The monument is a great resource and well worth visiting, but it does not deserve park status. “
- “Sorry, but I don’t understand the hoopla over changing the status of the Colorado National Monument to a national park. I have visited several national parks and while the monument is beautiful, it simply does not measure up to any of the national parks I’ve seen.”
- “The Monument is fragile, and if it becomes a park, it could deteriorate like Zion has. Leave it be and preserve it.”
- “I have written to the Daily Sentinel, and I have carried petitions. Every person I asked to sign the petition re: keeping the Colorado National Monument as it is was definitely opposed to changing it to a National Park.”
- “The geology of the Colorado National Monument is very interesting, but the terrain is not up to the standards of the national parks of eastern Utah, where people can spend many days driving through a huge area.”
- “People who signed [the petition opposing national park status] have no trust that feds will do what is promised regardless of what the law may say.”
- “Palisade-area fruit growers have similar misgivings, fearing they’ll be prohibited from burning fields and irrigation ditches because of the possible effects on the view and air quality in a national park. One concern is that a national park would require a buffer zone. That’s an issue because the monument abuts populated areas of Grand Junction and Mesa County and visitors can view the length of the Grand Valley from Rim Rock Drive.”
- “If the natural features of Colorado National Monument can compare to the best, then it is worthy of designation as a national park. However, if its natural features are similar to other areas in the region, it should remain a monument. National Park Service statistics show that both the Sand Dunes and Black Canyon have decreased in annual visitors since they were designated national parks, while the monument has continued to increase during the same period. Thus, upgrading to park status is no guarantee of greater tourism numbers translating into local economic gain.”
- “We are again bombarded with pleas from the local economic development crowd to change Colorado National Monument to park status. It seems economic development is the only argument for the change. Calling a frog a puppy, just because more people like puppies, does not make it so. “
**(comments taken from Grand Junction Daily Sentinel Letters to the Editor, You Said It, and related articles)
Don’t Fix It Until It Gets Broken
- Proponent’s Catch 22: National Park status for the CNM is touted by proponents as a future economic boon that will result from greatly increased tourist visitation. Some claim that the “prestige” of a national park vs. a national monument, will attract “high-tech” industry to the area. There is no hard data supporting such assertions, and conditions within the existing monument are not suitable for the kind of growth proponents claim will occur. According to minutes from the Colorado National Monument Advisory Group meeting of January 18, 2012:
- “the current road system is beyond maxed out”
- “there is an increasing demand for law enforcement on the property”
- “A growing proportion of the law enforcement needs occur at night”
- “Suicide attempts also require law enforcement attention”
The CNM is relatively small in comparison to other destinations and recreation areas, and can be traversed by car in less than an hour. A significant increase in foot and motorized traffic would negatively impact its unique environment, very narrow roadways, plant life and wildlife.
- The roads are narrow and subject to erosion and damage due to seasonal temperature fluctuations and rockslides.
- Many stretches of road in the CNM do not have guard rails, and increased traffic greatly heightens the potential for accidents.
- The current National Park Service (NPS) administrator has banned bike races inside the CNM, and increased motor traffic in the form of large tour busses could lead to a complete ban on bicycle traffic on its paved roads.
- A significant increase in traffic could lead to a ban on personal cars inside the park, limiting motorized traffic to shuttle busses, as currently exists in Zion National Park—which is much larger than the CNM. https://www.zionpark.org/article_shuttle_08.php
- A drive through and around the CNM will tell locals and visitors alike all they need to know about the viability of national park status. Roads in and around the CNM are narrow. South Broadway is a narrow paved lane which runs along the NE boundary of the monument, abutting BLM land on one side, and private property on the other. Immediately next to the roadway are canals used for irrigation. There are no passing lanes, few turnouts large enough for more than one car at a time, and bicyclists and runners can be regularly found on South Broadway.
- The 18 mile Rim Rock Drive cutting through the Monument is narrow, steep, and many stretches, including those along sheer cliff faces, lack guard rails. Turnouts on the Monument itself accommodate only a few cars at a time and there is little room for visitors to stand. The only turnouts large enough to accommodate tour busses are within the south end camping area and in front of the visitor center. Large tour groups would have a difficult time accessing the vistas and trails along Rim Rock Drive.
- The reality is that most long-distance travelers who visit the CNM access it by car. Lacking the capacity to park large vehicles and guide large groups of people practically and safely to its scenic viewpoints, most groups experience the Colorado National Monument as an 18 mile drive-through, complete with one restroom and retail stop at the small visitor center.
- Increased foot traffic leads to erosion, the destruction of naturally-occurring cryptobiotic soil, wildlife habitat destruction, littering, vandalism, theft of minerals and plant life, personal and property crimes, and necessitates increased maintenance, sanitation, and law enforcement.
- See Appendix II
Below is a recent photograph is of the CNM Upper Ribbon Trail and shows the rutted and packed soil completely absent of protective cryptobiotic crust.
Reaching Beyond the Borders
or, how national park status and Landscape-level Conservation will limit or stop energy development and other human activities in adjacent areas
- In a 2011 publication by the National Parks Conservation Association titled, “The State of Our National Parks,” it becomes clear that simply managing parks within their borders is not the strategic goal of the NPCA. It is rather; physical expansion of existing parks, increasing the number of parks, monuments and wilderness areas, and controlling human activity beyond the borders of the units within the National Park System. They state the following:
- 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)
- Parks should function as habitat and heritage hubs within larger, landscape-level conservation efforts.(pg 5)
- No matter the size or location, one major finding of our study is inescapable: Development and extraction on adjacent lands negatively impact the natural resources in national parks.(pg 10)
- Our assessments found that land uses outside national parks often have a dramatic impact on resources within the parks. (pg 10)
- Groundwater extraction, even if done miles away, can have significant impacts on national parks. (pg 17)
- In the section of “The State of Our National Parks” titled “Beyond Park Borders: Landscape-Lever Conversation,” the NPCA uses wildlife populations as a justification for the (indefinite) expansion of national parks. It states:
- …NPCA’s Center for Park Research found that habitat fragmentation and loss of species were among the most serious challenges facing parks’ natural resources. Simply put, parks cannot survive as isolated islands of habitat. They must be protected as part of larger landscapes.(pg 49)
- Landscape-level conservation means integrating park lands into a larger conservation strategy that links national parks to one another and to adjacent protected lands. (pg 51)
- Promises that there will be no attempts to adjust the boundaries of the existing CNM, or link it with other protected areas, such as the McInnis National Conservation Area, are contradicted by the strategic goals of the NPCA. Landscape-level conservation implies that indefinite, unlimited expansion of national parks is required for present and future conservation, regardless of the negative impact it may have on nearby people and communities. See the full NPCA report here: http://www.npca.org/about-us/center-for-park-research/sanp/SANP-long-WEB.pdf
Haze Rules and “Class I Area” National Parks:
The EPA created the Regional Haze Rule in 1999 and it became effective in 2005. This rule governs “visibility” in America’s “Class I” areas which consist of national parks and wilderness areas. The stated goal of the Haze Rule is to achieve “natural background” (ie., no manmade visibility impairment) by 2064. Manmade haze can come from wood-burning fireplaces, seasonal field burning, airborne dust stirred up by human activity, vehicle emissions, or industrial output, among other things. Class 1 Area Haze Rules can affect existing and future energy development and human activity for hundreds of miles outside of a Class I Area (ie., national parks and wilderness areas). See graphic taken from EPA Haze Rule document:
The above graphic pinpoints the PMN Generating Station in Northern New Mexico and the Class I Areas in the region governed by the Regional Haze rules. Any industries, power plants, extraction operations, mining, or other human activities which can potentially produce “manmade haze” are subject to the Clean Air Act and Regional Haze Rules. Those areas closest to national parks and wilderness areas are under greatest scrutiny by the EPA and the National Parks Conservation Association, which together helped create Regional Haze Rule legislation.
- In opposition to the Navajo Power Plant in Page, Arizona, the manager of the Arizona Program of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Kevin Dahl, said that “The pollution from this plant must be substantially reduced as soon as possible, for the sake of our lungs and our parks,” despite the fact that Grand Canyon National Park is over 12 miles away at its closest point. Read the story here: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/11/13/national-parks-conservation-group-objects-navajo-generating-station-proposal-152238
- Under Federal Haze Rules the EPA would regulate regional ‘particulate matter’ or ‘particle pollution’ (PM) in and near Class I Areas. PM is defined by the EPA as “a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets. Particle pollution is made up of a number of components, including acids (such as nitrates and sulfates), organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust particles.” Under the EPA Haze Rules everything from airborne particles from seasonal burning to dust stirred up on roadways is subject to regulation. Haze Rules could seriously hamper all forms of development which currently exist within the CNM region, given the EPA is determined to regulate “particles directly emitted from sources such as forest fires, or formed when gases emitted from power plants, industries and automobiles react in the air.” See the EPA standards here: http://www.epa.gov/pm/
- Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART), which is extremely expensive and complicated, must be activated by industries near Class I Areas within legislative timeframes, or they will be subject to fines, lawsuits, or closures. National parks–which all have Class I Area status–exert a measure of power over regional industry that threatens economic development, jobs, and the availability of resources. Read about EPA Class I Area Haze Rules here: http://www.epa.gov/visibility/program.html
Views and vistas outside of national parks which can be seen from within the boundaries are designated “viewsheds.” The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), National Park Service (NPS), and others, are using the concept of viewsheds to assert that certain human activities have a negative “visual impact” because they can be viewed from within a national park. Things most targeted by the EPA, NPS, and NPCA, according to an 2013 report by the NPCA are:
- Energy development-related heavy equipment and traffic
- Oil wells and rigs that can be seen from inside parks
- Nighttime lighting from rigs, cell towers, buildings and traffic
- Rigs, roads, pipelines, and well heads
- Haze produced by energy extraction operations and other human activities
Read the entire NPCA report here: http://www.npca.org/assets/pdf/Fracking_Report.pdf
The NPCA protested a 2012 proposal for drilling near Dinosaur National Park asserting that “it will come at the peril of the night skies in the area, create air pollution concerns and be contrary to the visitor experience at the park…”
- Viewshed visual impacts could be defined to include seasonal burning by agricultural operations, wood smoke from home fireplaces, charcoal grills, residential leaf and weed burning, livestock pens, commercial and residential lighting, lights from nighttime sports venues, commercial signage, commercial traffic, residential traffic, industrial parks, construction sites, excavations, landfills, rock quarries, and countless other scenes that might be considered “unsightly.”
- In a document titled “Visual Resource Analysis” the NPS lists what factors it will consider when formulating viewsheds. These factors include, but are not limited to:
- determining which characteristics of an external viewshed, such as its scenic quality and the nature of any developments visible within the viewshed, most affect the NPS visitor experience;
- determining which factors (e.g., land ownership) are most relevant to scenic conservation for a viewshed; and
- identifying pressures that will be associated with likely future development. (emphasis added) Read the full document here: http://visualimpact.anl.gov/evpp/
All of the operations or towns in the below photographs are in close proximity to the existing Colorado National Monument and can be seen clearly from within its boundaries.
Colorado is protest central when it comes to opposition to energy development. BLM leases on Colorado’s Roan Plateau, which is not a formally protected area, have been hotly disputed. Development of Colorado’s vast energy reserves in the regions of Mesa Verde NP and Dinosaur NP has been delayed or halted around these protected areas. The existence of a national park in the midst of commercial, residential, and industrial, and agricultural development in Mesa County could open the door to endless protests and injunctions against what is currently business as usual. The graphic below, courtesy of the Denver Post, shows how protests against energy development on public lands in Colorado are the rule, not the exception.
- In 2012 the National Parks Conservation Association protested a BLM proposal to lease land outside the boundaries of Dinosaur National Park for commercial drilling. The protest was based on the fear that commercial traffic would use roads in and near the existing park. They also asserted that drilling outside of the park, though miles away and largely hidden from view from within the park, would negatively impact the experiences of visitors. Despite the distance of leases from the park, the BLM was sufficiently pressured to pull the proposal later in 2013. The below graphic, courtesy of the Salt Lake Tribune, shows the proposed leases and their distances from Dinosaur National Park, the nearest of which lies 7 miles outside the park boundaries.
- In 2013 National Park Service joined forces with the NPCA to oppose a BLM proposal to lease remote areas outside of Mesa Verde National Park for exploration and drilling. The 12 proposed leases lie between Hesperus and Mancos and are several miles from the Mesa Verde boundary. Despite the fact that modern fracking has marginal effects on water and air quality, and the proposed leases exist well outside park boundaries, after what it considered a victory, the Sierra Club said on its blog, “The Sierra Club…and the Park Service protested the sale, noting the very real possibility that expanding dirty fuels extraction would severely harm the air quality and natural resources of the Park”. The below BLM graphic shows the relatively small sizes of the leases and their locations outside of Mesa Verde National Park.
- The National Parks Conservation Association will use the leverage of national park status to exert influence on private property and public lands which lie outside national park boundaries. In 2012 NPCAlaunched their “Landscape Conservation Program.” In the words of NPCA their purpose is to, “harness the iconic power of national parks, their broad public and political support, and their capacity to engage and educate, to protect and improve the health of the land and waterscapes within which national parks reside.”
- They plan on, “ developing and implementing solutions that use national parks for broader conservation, whether as ‘anchor tenants’ of larger ecosystems, connective pathways linking wildlife habitat, economic drivers of local communities, or catalysts for resource protection.”
- Given that the CNM abuts residential subdivision, some of which are under construction, and the towns of Fruita, Grand Junction, and Palisade in the distance, which comprise a dramatic “cityscape” at night, meeting viewshed criteria is an impossibility. Those residences and businesses closest to its boundaries could be threatened by legal actions or government impositions diminishing their private property rights.
Buffer Zones and Boundary Adjustments:
The Antiquities Act, passed by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, gives the president executive power to restrict the use of public land managed by the Federal Government. The Antiquities Act has been used hundreds of times since its inception, ordinarily to make a protected area into a national monument or national park. The redesignation of the CNM to that of Rim Rock Canyons National Park could lead the National Parks Service (NPS) to use the Antiquities Act to make McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area a buffer zone by designating it as a national monument.
- Buffer zones are defined as areas created to enhance the protection of a conservation area, just outside of its boundaries, or as a large swath of land that may or may not be directly adjacent. World Heritage sites, through cooperation from the United States Government and the United Nations, now encompass several of America’s national parks. The U.N. will nominate a national park or other important destination as a World Heritage Site, which then gives the United Nations agency, UNESCO latitude to employ a variety of mechanisms to acquire private or public property in the creation a buffer zone. As stated in the UNESCO 2013 World Heritage Convention Operational Guidelines:
- For the purposes of effective protection of the nominated property, a buffer zone is an area surrounding the nominated property which has complementary legal and/or customary restrictions placed on its use and development to give an added layer of protection to the property.
- This should include the immediate setting of the nominated property, important views and other areas or attributes that are functionally important as a support to the property and its protection.
- The area constituting the buffer zone should be determined in each case through appropriate mechanisms.
- Details on the size, characteristics and authorized uses of a buffer zone, as well as a map indicating the precise boundaries of the property and its buffer zone, should be provided in the nomination.
- See Appendix III
National Park Service and Related Associations Often Conflict with Economic Growth and Local Interests
- Although the National Park Service (NPS) has no formal jurisdiction over properties outside the boundaries of the parks, monuments, and recreational areas, they often use “nuisance laws” to get injunctions against development in communities or areas close to attractions they manage. Read more here: http://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1439&context=ealr
- The National Park Service regularly opposes projects, even those hundreds of miles outside national park boundaries. According to the Los Angeles Times, “In 2003, the agency (NPS)objected to a coal-fired power plant hundreds of miles outside Yellowstone National Park. It also objects to a proposed Las Vegas airport just east of the Mojave National Preserve and a massive trash dump outside Joshua Tree National Park.”
- The National Park Service has helped shut down drilling near the Gulf Islands National Seashore and other energy-rich areas, both onshore and offshore.
- The National Park Service is often at odds with residents who live near parks and monuments over residential and commercial development, human activity, animal life (domestic and/or wild) and energy exploration and extraction. Read more here: http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/css501/images/Readings/NPS%20partnerships.pdf
- Park Rangers for our Lands is an organization of current and former NPS rangers which opposes oil and gas development in Colorado and “monitors oil and gas leases” in the state. Though their website states that they “haven’t stopped caring about our nation’s parks simply because we no longer work for our old agencies,” the fact that Park Rangers for our Lands is composed of CURRENT and former rangers contradicts the statement that they “no longer work for their old agencies.” Check out their mission here: http://parkrangers.org/about-us
- The National Parks Conversation Association (NPCA), describes itself as “America’s only private, nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated solely to protecting, preserving, and enhancing America’s National Parks for present and future generations.” but is largely an environmentalist organization which opposes fracking, mining, commercial and residential development, and other kind of human activity near or around national parks. As a result of their activism, energy and mineral exploration and development has been banned in numerous regions throughout the United States. Read more about who they are and their activities here: http://www.npca.org/protecting-our-parks/air-land-water/mining-and-fracking/
- The below graphic is a NPS map of current national parks within the United States that are designated World Heritage sites:
- Federal legislators, as recently as January 2014, have used the Wilderness Act and Eminent domain to acquire state and private lands for the purpose of increased conservation through national park boundary adjustments, such as a recent case in California’s Yosemite NP. Read more here: http://www.dnlc.net/federal-lawmakers-turn-wilderness-act-eminent-domain-acquire-california-lands-wilderness-wildlife-conservation/
- The NPS “Implementation Procedures” Appendix L contains a lists of land procurement procedures which does not rule out the use of eminent domain.
- Boundary Adjustments are not uncommon and the individuals who own property into which the NPS wishes to expand are certainly under a great deal of pressure. There may be efforts to reimburse individuals for the value of their private land, but the threat of eminent domain is certainly a consideration when an individual citizen has to face the power of the Department of the Interior (DOI), NPS, and the U.N. bearing down.