Dinosaur's monumental quiet is threatened

  • The Mantles plan to develop land adjacent to Yampa River

    National Park Service
  • Dinosaurs art

    National Park Service, Richard Fish
 

Visitors to remote Dinosaur National Monument first marveled at the huge dinosaur bones exposed in its Utah quarry back in 1915. In the years that followed, other attributes surfaced. Rafters and hikers visiting the monument straddling the Utah/Colorado border discovered winding river canyons and quiet high desert.

But Dinosaur's serenity may not survive another year. A family that owns two inholdings in the monument wants to develop them for commercial activities.

In early July, owners of the Mantle Ranch received conditional use permits from Moffat County, Colo., to construct new facilities on 520 acres of private land in the monument's rugged Yampa Valley.

The Mantle family says it will build a 50-site campground, convenience store, restrooms, private aircraft landing strip and heliport on both its Castle Park and Red Rock Ranch properties. Planned additions not requiring permits include a residential subdivision, an all-terrain vehicle race track and exploratory oil and gas drilling.

"Dinosaur National Monument is one of the few places left in the United States that is noise- and light-pollution free," says Dave Cooper, who lives in the nearby county seat of Craig, Colo. "The peace and tranquillity of the Yampa Valley are at risk."

The National Park Service agrees.

Park Superintendent Dennis Huffman says his agency wants to buy the Mantle properties to protect their rich natural and cultural resources. Red Rock Ranch is located on a deer and antelope winter range, and the Castle Park site contains prime archaeological resources, according to the monument's land protection plan. Castle Park also occupies the river's only potential mid-point access within the monument for water-rescue launches.

Though both parcels of land are for sale, the agency has balked at the family's asking price, says Huffman. "There has been a wide gap between the appraised value and what the Mantles believe their property is worth," he says. More than one observer believes the Mantles' developed proposal is a form of blackmail designed to force the agency into paying them more for the property.

Tim Mantle, whose father established the ranch in 1919, charges that the Park Service has offered next to nothing for his lands. For more than 30 years, he says, the Park Service has harrassed his family with heavy-handed regulations and pressure to give up the land.

"They've forgotten who they work for," he says. "These bureaucrats have no right to torment a private citizen."

The family is currently suing the agency over livestock grazing rights at the monument. Park officials won't divulge the specifics of the case but say the dispute centers on Mantles' consistent non-compliance with the terms and conditions of their permit.

The monument's land protection plan, which notes that grazing has altered native plant communities, calls for "the systematic phasing out of grazing activities." Superintendent Huffman says the agency wants to accomplish that goal by purchasing the ranch inholdings, which act as the base properties for the federal grazing leases.

In the meantime, park officials say they will wait to see if the Mantles are serious about their development plans. Although the Park Service has no jurisdiction over private inholdings, Huffman says it can take legal action to protect monument resources, including condemnation of the land if necessary. But the agency can't consider that option, he says, until the Mantles construct something that harms the park.

"There is always a possibility that the Mantles' planning is just to get back at the Park Service," says Terry Doherty, parks and recreation director for Craig. "The only way to a happy ending is if these people come off their polarized views and sit down at a table to negotiate."

For more information, contact Dinosaur National Monument, 4545 Highway 40, Dinosaur, Colorado 81610-9724 (970/374-3000).

Diane Kelly is a former HCN intern.

High Country News Classifieds
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Job Title: Executive Director Reports To: Board of Directors Compensation: $75,000 to $80,000, plus generous benefits and paid leave. Funding for relocation expenses available. Classification:...
  • WATER DIRECTOR
    Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. Application review will begin on April 2, 2021 and will continue until the position has been filled....
  • CLIMATE JUSTICE FELLOW
    High Country News, an award-winning magazine covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks applicants for a climate justice fellowship. The fellowship...
  • VIRGINIA SPENCER DAVIS FELLOWSHIP
    High Country News, an award-winning magazine covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, is offering a fellowship for early-career journalists interested in...
  • COLORADO WILD PUBLIC LANDS VIDEO CONTEST
    Please submit your video of 30 seconds or less, taken on public lands, to [email protected] by May 15th for a chance to win in one...
  • WMAN NETWORK COORDINATOR
    WESTERN MINING ACTION NETWORK (WMAN) CONTRACT OPPORTUNITY CLOSING DATE: Feb. 19, 2021 WMAN is seeking a team member to coordinate the various network activities to...
  • FRIENDS OF THE INYO IS HIRING TRAIL AMBASSADORS FOR THE SUMMER OF 2021
    Friends of the Inyo's Trail Ambassadors (TAs) support the Inyo, Sierra, & Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests and other partners by providing positive public service, outreach, interpretation,...
  • LAND & CABIN ON CO/ UT LINE
    18 ac w/small solar ready cabin. Off grid, no well. Great RV location. Surrounded by state wildlife area and nat'l parks.
  • MANAGER PERMACULTURE LANDSCAPE CONTRACTOR
    Permaculture / Landscape Company Manager / Site Lead Red Ant Works, Inc. - 20+ year landscape construction and horticultural care company seeks manager and site...
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field seminars for adults in natural and human history of the Colorado Plateau with lodge, river trip and base camp options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
    San Juan Citizens Alliance is looking for a passionate, dynamic, organized, and technology-savvy communications professional to help grow our membership and presence in the Four...
  • ENERGY AND CLIMATE PROGRAM ASSOCIATE
    San Juan Citizens Alliance seeks an Energy and Climate Program Associate to focus on public outreach, education and organizing to advance campaigns to mitigate climate...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    This position provides professional real estate services and is responsible for managing and completing real estate projects utilizing a project management database that is designed...
  • WILDFIRE MITIGATION SPECIALIST
    The Wildfire Mitigation Specialist is responsible for delivering wildfire risk mitigation information, recommendations and programmatic resources to wildland urban interface homeowners, community members and partners....
  • DEVELOPMENT POSITIONS
    Thorne Nature Experience is hiring for a Development Director and Senior Individual Giving Manager. Individuals will work collaboratively with Thorne's Executive Director to develop and...
  • SENIOR PROGRAM MANAGER, LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION & ENERGY
    The National Parks Conservation Association, a 100-year-old nonprofit advocacy organization and the nation's leading voice for national parks seeks a Senior Program Manager, Landscape Conservation...
  • BACKCOUNTRY AND FRONTCOUNTRY STEWARDSHIP CREW MEMBERS
    The San Juan Mountains Association (SJMA) is hiring a crew of ambassadors to work in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to educate visitors on...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATURAL HISTORY INSTITUTE
    The Executive Director is the chief executive officer of the Natural History Institute (NHI). The Executive Director has broad authority to lead and manage the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT FRIENDS OF CEDAR MESA
    - The Land, History, and People of the Bears Ears Region - The Bears Ears and Cedar Mesa region is one of the most beautiful,...
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Native plant seeds for the Western US. Trees, shrubs, grasses, wildflowers and regional mixes. Call or email for free price list. 719-942-3935. [email protected] or visit...