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
  • ELLIE SAYS IT'S SAFE! A GUIDE DOG'S JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE
    by Don Hagedorn. A story of how lives of the visually impaired are improved through the love and courage of guide dogs. Available on Amazon.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY
    All positions available: Sales Representative, Accountant and Administrative Assistant. As part of our expansion program, our University is looking for part time work from home...
  • COMMUNICATIONS ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Position Title: Communications Associate Director Location: Flexible within the Western U.S., Durango, CO preferred Position reports to: Senior Communications Director The Conservation Lands Foundation (CLF)...
  • HISTORIC HOTEL & CAFE
    For Sale, 600k, Centennial Wyoming, 6 suites plus 2 bed, 2 bath apartment. www.themountainviewhotel.com Make this your home or buy a turn key hotel [email protected]
  • MAJOR GIFTS OFFICER
    High Country News, an award-winning news organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Major Gifts Officer to join our...
  • RUBY, ARIZONA CARETAKER
    S. Az ghost town seeking full-time caretaker. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • VICE PRESIDENT, LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION
    Basic Summary: The Vice President for Landscape Conservation is based in the Washington, D.C., headquarters and oversees Defenders' work to promote landscape-scale wildlife conservation, focusing...
  • BRISTOL BAY PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Seeking a program director responsible for developing and implementing all aspects of the Alaska Chapter's priority strategy for conservation in the Bristol Bay region of...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The National Bighorn Sheep Center is looking for an Executive Director to take us forward into the new decade with continued strong leadership and vision:...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Powder Basin Watershed Council, based in Baker City, Oregon, seeks a new Executive Director with a passion for rural communities, water, and working lands....
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Powder River Basin Resource Council, a progressive non-profit conservation organization based in Sheridan, Wyoming, seeks an Executive Director, preferably with grassroots organizing experience, excellent communication...
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, based in Ely, Nevada is looking for a new executive director to replace the long-time executive director who is retiring at...
  • STEVE HARRIS, EXPERIENCED PUBLIC LANDS/ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY
    Comment Letters - Admin Appeals - Federal & State Litigation - FOIA -
  • LISA MACKEY PHOTOGRAPHY
    Fine Art Gicle Printing. Photo papers, fine art papers, canvas. Widths up to 44". Art printing by an artist.
  • LOG HOME IN THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Beautiful hand built log home in the heart of the Gila Wilderness on five acres. Please email for PDF of pictures and a full description.
  • CARETAKER
    2.0 acre homestead needing year-round caretaker in NE Oregon. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • SEEKING PROPERTY FOR BISON HERD
    Seeking additional properties for a herd of 1,000 AUM minimum. Interested in partnering with landowners looking to engage in commercial and/or conservation bison ranching. Location...
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.