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Organizations Want Veto Power Over National Park Service At Colorado National Monument


There's a story in western Colorado involving Colorado National Monument that bears watching. The gist of the story is that some local community organizations are in support of redesignating the monument as a national park, but only if they can veto Park Service decisions on what uses the monument is appropriate for.

Onlookers believe that this ties in to past efforts to have a professional bike race -- the 2013 USA Pro Challenge -- course through the national monument along the 23-mile-long Rim Rock Drive. In the past, officials all the way up to the director of the National Park Service have said that would be an inappropriate use of the national monument.

Now, earlier this spring the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association passed a resolution in support of renaming the monument a national park. That resolution was similar to one adopted earlier by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as one passed by the Grand Junction Economic Partnership. The kicker is that the groups want the legislation to give community stakeholders veto power over any Park Service decisions on uses the agency finds are inappropriate for the monument...such as a professional bike race.

Whether legislation will be introduced into Congress this summer by either U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton or U.S. Sen. Mark Udall to redesignate the monument as a national park remains to be seen.

Park advocacy groups, though, are keeping an eye on this issue and are stressing that the Park Service's hands should not be tied when it comes to what is appropriate for Colorado National Monument.

At the National Parks Conservation Association, officials have said it is good for the Park Service to meet with local stakeholders to discuss the future of Colorado National Monument. But David Nimkin, senior director for NPCA's Southwest regional office, has made it clear that NPCA strongly opposes a professional bike race through the monument.

Simply put, he says, the commercialization of the national monument is out of bounds.

Also watching the issue is the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, which also opposes a professional bike race in the monument. While that group believes it is doubtful that Sen. Udall would offer legislation that would provide local stakeholders veto power over the Park Service, the Coalition nevertheless has notified him of its position on the matter. If the senator or any other congressional representative offers legislation to rename the monument as a national park for the significant natural resources and history of Colorado National Monument, the coalition will offer its official position on the matter at that time.


Perhaps the NPS should have veto power over the land uses of the oil and gas industry, or perhaps the local organizations who may want developments touching the border of the parks so they can extract profit from the very park service they despise. Oh, just think what a giant overreach of the evil government that would be. Nothing wrong with it as proposed from their point of view. It amazes me.

Ozark - you are missing one important element - a quid pro quo. The chamber and the Association are giving their support in return for the veto power and not just demanding it. I don't believe the NPS should take that deal but there is nothing wrong with the offer.

The NPS is free to offer something to the oil and gas industry or local organizations to stop some of their activities and there would be absolutely nothing wrong with it. For example, the feds might say - don't drill next to Roosevelt National Park and we will open up parts of fed lands elsewhere for you. Would that be so bad? Isn't this the kind of of give and take that so many here have complained is lacking in Washington?

Some interesting agendas in this issue. If you look back at earlier stories on the Traveler about the bike race controversy, it's pretty clear that event was a case of some local business interests vs. park visitors. Some local businesses saw extra cash from a commercial bike race that would attract a crowd to the area, but the tradoff was closing the park to use by visitors for a day, to allow an event that had nothing to do with the park.

I'd suggest this isn't a case of the NPS failing to listen to public input, because there was no lack of opposition to this commercial activity at public expense. It was a case of the NPS failing to give into some local interests vs. the larger public interest (visitors who simply wanted to enjoy the use of the scenic drive, trails and other reasons the park was established.) There's a long-standing NPS policy that commercial special events should not interfere with normal visitor use of a park, and that's as it should be.

Ec - you make some useful comments on the quid pro quo. The irony in this case is that the NPS isn't the one pushing for a change in status for this site from a national monument to a national park - the NPS really has little to gain from that change.

The push for the redesignation is coming primarily from those same local businesses who believe the "national park label" will bring more visitors to the area--and now they want this "veto power" in exchange for their support. If they withdraw their support for a name change and the idea fails, that's really no loss to the resources or visitor experience at Colorado National Monument., I'm not at all against local businesses benefitting from having NPS areas "next door" -those economic benefits from parks are a great advantage to a local area. That doesn't mean, however, that local economic interests should be given power to determine park policy for protecting resources.

ecBuck, I agree with you on your primise.

Jim Burnett, I was thinking the same thing but I am sure I would not have worded it as well. The support to change from monument to National Park seems to only gain the locals and not the NPS.

Jim - I'm not pushing for a change in status either, it might be nice as a park but at this time we can't afford it. Though some on this board have in the past pushed for Park status.

At the same time, I totally disagree with your stance on the bike race. How could attracting thousands of new visitors to the monument be against the "public interest". Are people that exclusively visit parks some "special" group? Are they a preferred visitor over someone else?

ec, a valid question, and I'll offer a subjective answer.

NPS areas such as Colorado National Monument are places with special resources and opportunities for visitors, and visitors to this park are free to chose their options. Some will take the loop drive at the speed limit, glance at the scenery and perhaps stop at an overlook and snap a quick photo, and go on their way. Others will spend hours soaking in the superb scenery, or will hike, or camp, or climb, spend hours framing a special photo, set up an easel and paint, or enjoy the wildlife, or the geology, or the plants, or simply find a spot to sit and enjoy the peace and quiet in a magnificent setting. Some will enjoy a bike ride ... but they won't demand that the road be reserved for their use alone.

If the park is closed for the exclusive benefit of a commercial sporting event, the rest of the public loses the opportunity to do any and all of those things—and for visitors who include this park as part of a longer trip and have only one chance to do so, that would be a shame.

Will some of the people coming to see cyclists ride a winding mountain road at the fastest possible speed also enjoy the scenery? Probably. Does that justify tying up the area for this single event, and denying use of a large public area for all other uses? Opinions clearly differ, but I'd say "no."

You asked, "Are people that exclusively visit parks some 'special' group?" I don't know anyone who "exclusively visits parks," but I'd suggest that people who visit parks to enjoy experiences that are exclusive to the parks deserve the chance to do so without being locked out due to a single-use, commercial special event.

There are hundreds of miles of other mountain roads in Colorado where a race can occur, but very few miles of road that offer the kind and variety of special experiences available in Colorado National Monument.

Opinions clearly differ

Yep. In my opinion, giving 10s of thousands a new opportunity to enjoy the area far outweighs the incovenience a few might encounter.

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