Pro: Colorado National Monument should become a national park

 

There’s been a lot of hoopla and public meetings here in Grand Junction, Colo., about turning the nearby Colorado National Monument into a national park. My opinion is simply: Why not?

I know this is not a passionate position, but this isn’t a passionate subject. As a former national park ranger, I know that the public is confused about the difference between a monument and a park, while the truth is that there is little difference between them.

A monument is designated as such by the sole authority of the president of the United States, using powers conveyed by the Antiquities Act of 1906. A national park is designated by an act of Congress. That’s it. I have often heard of monuments being “upgraded” to park status, and though technically a park can be considered a more permanent designation, I am unaware of any monument designated by a president getting un-designated by an act of Congress.

In addition, a change in designation confers not one iota of additional protection, funding or restrictions. The only visible change is the name on the entrance signs. Some people I know say they’re concerned about the “new” restrictions that would be put into place. I tell them there would be no change, though I can tell they don’t believe it. My favorite response is from folks who say they’re afraid because they sure don’t want the federal government to become involved.  Um … go back to sleep!

I have heard it said that by designating such a small -- and I’ll say it -- a less than spectacular park that boasts views similar to the ones you can marvel at in Utah’s Canyonlands and Arches national parks, the park designation itself will lost its luster. I don’t see how one affects the other any more than I can see how same-sex marriage somehow magically affects the “sanctity” of opposite-sex marriage. Park status also would not change the number of employees. The rangers, staff and superintendent would probably stay the same, and the change in designation would not change the mission of their jobs one bit. Those onerous little rules that are in place now – like no dogs on trails – would stay onerous and in place; and rules that don’t exist now would continue to not exist. If visitors close their eyes as they drive by the entrance sign, they will never know the difference.  So why bother turning a monument into a park?

The answer lies in perception. Monuments … blah! Why bother to even slow down? Parks … Oooooh! Ahhhh! The West’s great natural splendor at its best! And with that change in public perception comes likely increase in visitation. And with an increase in visitation comes an increase in the amount of money spent in the area. I am no fan of the “industrial tourism” that fellow-curmudgeon Ed Abbey so accurately predicted, but all towns strive for a healthy economy.

A huge part of the Grand Valley’s economy is now derived from oil and gas extraction. It’s a moneymaker when it’s boom and not bust, and yet it’s hard to live with: Heavy traffic on the section of the interstate that runs through town, water and air degradation, well pads in unlikely and often inappropriate places.

Tourism can be added to a cleaner, less disruptive and more sustainable economy. Do I want heavier traffic? Of course not. But will there be noticeably heavier traffic in town? It’s hard to imagine there would be much difference.

The one argument I hear with any credibility is that park status would increase traffic through the current monument and thereby threaten the safety of bicyclists. The road through the monument was mostly carved out of sandstone by the Civilian Conservation Corps decades ago, and is so windy and twisty that if you drive over the edge, you die. I’m a bicyclist, and the ride through the monument is accurately described as one of the premier rides in the area. I have certainly heard true stories about near misses and vehicle-versus-biker collisions. My experience riding the monument is that drivers have their eyes firmly on the road because the cost of a mistake is deadly. In any case, I’m no fan of folks who have selfish reasons for doing or not doing something.

My input to Congress? Just do it. Hell, at least they’d being doing something!

Wayne Hare is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News(hcn.org). He is a retired, former grumpy ranger, and now a grumpy civilian in the Grand Junction area.

High Country News Classifieds
  • CAMPAIGN MANAGER
    Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to protecting, defending and restoring Oregon's high desert, seeks a Campaign Manager to works as...
  • HECHO DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE, COLUMBIA CASCADES
    The Regional Representative serves as PCTA's primary staff on the ground along the trail working closely with staff, volunteers, and nonprofit and agency partners. This...
  • FINANCE AND OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    The Montana Land Reliance (MLR) seeks a full-time Finance and Operations Director to manage the internal functions of MLR and its nonprofit affiliates. Key areas...
  • DIRECTOR OF CONSERVATION
    The Nature Conservancy is recruiting for a Director of Conservation. Provides strategic leadership and support for all of the Conservancy's conservation work in Arizona. The...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • BIG BASIN SENIOR PROJECT PLANNER - CLIMATE ADAPTATION & RESILIENCE
    Parks California Big Basin Senior Project Planner - Climate Adaptation & Resilience ORGANIZATION BACKGROUND Parks California is a new organization working to ensure that our...
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSISTANT - (PART-TIME)
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a part-time Customer Service Assistant, based at...
  • SCIENCE PROJECT MANAGER
    About Long Live the Kings (LLTK) Our mission is to restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest. Since 1986,...
  • HUMAN RESOURCES GENERALIST
    Honor the Earth is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate based on identity. Indigenous people, people of color, Two-Spirit or LGBTQA+ people,...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Colorado Trout Unlimited seeks an individual with successful development experience, strong interpersonal skills, and a deep commitment to coldwater conservation to serve as the organization's...
  • NEW BOOK BY AWARD-WINNING WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST, BRUCE SMITH
    In a perilous place at the roof of the world, an orphaned mountain goat is rescued from certain death by a mysterious raven.This middle-grade novel,...
  • DESCHUTES LAND TRUST VOLUNTEER PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Deschutes Land Trust is seeking an experienced Volunteer Program Manager to join its dedicated team! Deschutes Land Trust conserves and cares for the lands...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Now hiring a full-time, remote Program Director for the Society for Wilderness Stewardship! Come help us promote excellence in the professional practice of wilderness stewardship,...
  • WYOMING COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS COORDINATOR
    The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is seeking Coordinator to implement public education and advocacy campaigns in the Cowboy State to unite and amplify hunter, angler,...
  • ASSISTANT TOWN ATTORNEY
    Town of Jackson, Wyoming, $66,700 - $88,000 DOQ, full benefits. Law Degree Required. Rental housing options available. For a complete job description and to apply,...
  • MOUNTAIN LOTS FOR SALE
    Multiple lots in gated community only 5 miles from Great Sand Dunes National Park. Seasonal flowing streams. Year round road maintenance.
  • RURAL ACREAGE OUTSIDE SILVER CITY, NM
    Country living just minutes from town! 20 acres with great views makes a perfect spot for your custom home. Nice oaks and juniper. Cassie Carver,...
  • A FIVE STAR FOREST SETTING WITH SECLUSION AND SEPARATENESS
    This home is for a discerning buyer in search of a forest setting of premier seclusion & separateness. Surrounded on all sides by USFS land...
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, HIke the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...