Some western Colorado locals were nervous when Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt visited the Colorado National Monument in November to announce his latest land-protection initiative.
"Any time the secretary of the
Interior comes to little Grand Junction, you're apprehensive about
what he's got on his mind," said Warren Gore, a third-generation
grazing permittee. "The last thing we want to see is expansion of
Gore expressed his concerns to
Babbitt at a Nov. 19 forum held near the monument's headquarters.
Environmentalists, ranchers and politicians talked about whether
73,000 acres of BLM land known as Black Ridge needed to be added to
the monument. The area, adjacent to the monument, is currently a
wilderness study area.
Babbitt stated his
position to the audience: "I want to make certain that this
landscape is protected in perpetuity," and he added, "I'm not
terribly concerned about whether we make this decision by executive
order or legislation. What I care about is (that) the result is
acceptable both to you and the secretary of the Interior."
Though not everyone agreed about what level of
protection is right for Black Ridge, Maggie Fox, from the Sierra
Club's Southwestern regional office, said she thought "the
underlying discussion from everyone was: these lands are valuable,
these lands are public, these lands need to be protected. And that
kind of underlying assumption means that the solutions are already
on their way to being found."
Babbitt found no
such consensus the following day in Cortez, Colo., where he has his
eye on 156,000 acres rich with Anasazi ruins. "It's impossible and
ridiculous to think they need to save all those little piles of
rocks," rancher Chester Kozar told the Grand Junction Daily