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
  • MEMBERSHIP DIRECTOR
    Job Announcement: Membership Director Job Title: Membership Director Supervisor: Executive Director Classification: Full-time exempt Location: Boise, ID Job Overview Winter Wildlands Alliance is seeking a...
  • IMPROVED LOT
    Private road, hillside, views. Well, pad, septic, 99 sq.ft. hut. Dryland permaculture orchard. Wildlife. San Diego--long growing season
  • STEWARDSHIP SPECIALIST
    San Isabel Land Protection Trust seeks experienced person to manage its 133 conservation easements in south-central Colorado.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Executive Director Position Announcement POSITION TITLE: Executive Director ORGANIZATION: Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument REPORTING TO: Board of Directors LOCATION: Ashland, OR POSTING CLOSES: March...
  • ARIZONA CONSERVATION CORPS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Arizona Conservation Corps is seeking a Program Director in Flagstaff or Tucson
  • UNIQUE INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY
    Profitable off-the-grid business located 2 miles from Glacier National Park. Owner has 6 years operating experience. Seeking investor or partner for business expansion and enhancement....
  • NEW MEXICO PROPERTY - SILVER CITY
    20 acres, $80,000. Owner financing, well, driveway, fencing possible, very private, sensible covenants, broker owned. Contact - 575-534-7955 or [email protected]
  • GRANT WRITER
    "We all love this place we call Montana. We believe that land and water and air are not ours to despoil, but ours to steward...
  • COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR
    ABOUT US: "This thriving citizens organization exemplifies the ideal of public involvement in public processes." - Billings Gazette At Northern Plains, we believe that true...
  • ST. LAWRENCE UNIVERSITY - ASSISTANT DIRECTOR IN THE OUTDOOR PROGRAM
    To view the complete position description please visit: http://employment.stlawu.edu. St. Lawrence University is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
  • TRAIL CREW & ASSISTANT TRAIL CREW LEADERS
    SEEKING TALENTED TRAIL WORK LEADERS The Pacific Crest Trail Association, headquartered in Sacramento, California is dedicated to protecting, preserving and promoting the Pacific Crest National...
  • SEASONAL SAN JUAN RANGERS
    Seeking experienced crew members to patrol Colorado's most iconic mountain wilderness.
  • REMOTE SITKA ALASKA FLOAT HOUSE VACATION RENTAL
    Vacation rental located in calm protected waters 8 miles from Sitka, AK via boat with opportunities to fish and view wildlife. Skiff rental also available.
  • DEVELOPMENT AND ADVOCACY DIRECTOR
    Provide stewardship and protection for the Great Burn wildlands along the Montana-Idaho stateline. This position is based in Missoula, MT, where a river runs through...
  • LISA MACKEY PHOTOGRAPHY
    Fine Art Gicle Printing. Photo papers, fine art papers, canvas. Widths up to 44". Art printing by an artist.
  • WILDERNESS CONSERVATION CORPS - OREGON
    The Siskiyou Mountain Club is hiring interns for the 2020 Field Season. Interns utilize non-mechanized tools to complete trail restoration and maintenance while gaining job...
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Colorado Plateau Natural & Human History Field Seminars. Lodge, river, hiking options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.