Colorado National Monument will, for the near term, remain a "national monument," and not a "national park."
While there had been much talk and meetings about changing the name of the monument located in western Colorado, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall said recent public polling shows there's a need for continued talk about the redesignation. Sen. Udall, who chairs the Senate's National Parks Subcommittee, said that while this "rules out" legislation to accomplish a name change in the near future, he wants the discussions about that possibility to conintue because "it could help create jobs and protect the Colorado National Monument for future generations," a release from his office said.
Sen. Udall and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., had unveiled a community-driven proposal in April to redesignate the Colorado National Monument as a national park and launched a 90-day public-comment period. The two also hosted a town hall meeting on the draft bill in May. The comment period showed that the community was still deeply divided over the bill, developed by a community drafting committee, the senator's staff said.
Members of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees voiced concern over the proposal, specifically to a section that called for a local committee to advise the Interior secretary on management of the monument/park, and of a proposal to place a representative from the Western Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association on the committee. The Retirees also noted that the draft document being circulated "omits essential provisions that would assure preservation and enjoyment of the park's resources and values, while including other provisions that would undermine long-term management and protection and create more of a local park than a new unit of the National Park System."
Debate over how Colorado National Monument has been managed, and whether it should be redesignated as a national park, has been ongoing for several years in western Colorado. Criticism of Park Service management of the monument has festered in part over the agency's refusal, since 2010, to allow a professional bike race to be staged on the monument's 23-mile Rim Rock Drive.
It was about a year ago that the Western 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. But in those resolutions the groups sought 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.
None of this was mentioned by Sen. Udall in his release. Rather, he called for more consideration of a redesignation.
"From the days of John Otto and the Colorado National Monument's founding, Coloradans have debated whether it should become a national park. Although the results of the comment period show more consensus is needed before we can move forward with legislation, this is a discussion community leaders, business owners and residents should continue to have," Sen. Udall said in the release. "In the meantime, I will continue to fight in Congress to ensure the National Park Service works closely with the community and local residents to keep the monument a vital part of Mesa County and the Western Slope."