The National Parks Conservation Association has bolstered its presence in the Four Corners states in general and the Colorado Plateau specifically.
After years without a strong presence in the Four Corners states, home to 11 national parks and a host of national monuments and other Park Service sites, NPCA has opened its Southwest Regional Office in Salt Lake City.
Actually, it's been open for a month or so, but so far no grand fanfare from NPCA's Washington headquarters has announced Dave Nimkin's hiring as regional director to bolster the group's activity in the region. And that's fine, as Dave has been busy traveling the region, meeting with park officials and other interested parties, and boning up on the myriad issues that confront the park system in this corner of the country.
And there are quite a few issues. For starters, Dave wants to re-establish the NPCA as a "primary conservation voice for national parks" in the region. To that end, he wants to "build and strengthen relationships with Park Service employees, conservation groups, and public and business leaders to advance NPCA core objectives and park protection priorities."
Along the way, he hopes to strengthen political support and advocacy for funding and protecting national parks with a focus on "systemic threats to our parks, such as air quality and climate change, threats to wildlife and habitats and adjacent land development."
Dave comes to the position with a unique skill set. You see, he's from outside the NPCA and the usual "green" advocacy sector. Indeed, there's scant green ink on his resume, as much of his professional career has been focused on advocating for non-profit groups, small business development, and public policy initiatives.
As a result, he comes to the job with no preconceived notions and an appetite for asking questions, as I recently learned over a long lunch with Dave.
But that might be just what NPCA needs, as Dave surely will approach issues in the region with a different eye than you might expect from others with a lengthy stint in national park advocacy.
What issues has he identified so far? Here's a short list:
* What is the potential for expansion of Canyonlands, Petrified Forest, and Saguaro national parks, as well as the prospect of transforming Cedar Breaks National Monument into Cedar Breaks National Park?;
* What threats do energy exploration pose to Zion, Arches, and Canyonlands national parks, as well as Hovenweap National Monument?;
* How to resolve overflight issues at Grand Canyon National Park;
* The question of wilderness designation at Rocky Mountain National Park;
* Input to the environmental impact statement on the Colorado River adaptive management plan and how it affects Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Grand Canyon;
* Working to address the longstanding and continuing battle over illegal off-road vehicle use;
* Partnering with groups such as the Grand Canyon Trust to challenge expansion of coal-fired power plant capacity in the Southwest.
"The Southwest features some of the most iconic and remarkable natural and cultural resource parks and monuments in the U.S.," Dave told me. "NPCA is committed to localized park protection and advocacy and it has been a priority to re-establish a direct and strong presence in this region."
Dave's got quite a lot on his plate, for sure. It'll be interesting to watch his progress.