Ending crisis no walk in the park

Legislators split on how to reopen monument

Ranger E. Paul with the National Park Service checks out a photographer at the barricaded west entrance to Colorado National Monument on Friday afternoon. With no end in sight to the federal shutdown that has closed access to national parks, Grand Valley legislators have reached no clear consensus on how to reopen public access to the Grand Valley’s crown jewel tourist destination.



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Ranger E. Paul with the National Park Service checks out a photographer at the barricaded west entrance to Colorado National Monument on Friday afternoon. With no end in sight to the federal shutdown that has closed access to national parks, Grand Valley legislators have reached no clear consensus on how to reopen public access to the Grand Valley’s crown jewel tourist destination.

Mesa County legislators are split on how to approach the federal shutdown and how it affects Colorado National Monument.

“The dysfunctionalism in D.C. should not be put on shoulders of Colorado taxpayers,” state Sen. Steve King said Friday as neighboring Utah loaned $1.7 million to the federal government to reopen the national parks in the Beehive State.

“Frankly, I’m ready to round up Rep. (Ray) Scott and Sen. King and the three of us go volunteer our own personal time to man the entrances and staff the park if necessary,” state Rep. Jared Wright said.

“I think Colorado should open the Roan Plateau and let the feds open the Monument,” King said on his Facebook page.

State Rep. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, said the idea of the state opening Colorado National Monument and other federal assets is good, but it doesn’t go far enough.

“I think we need to start to tell the federal government that we’re fully capable of managing the lands in the state of Colorado without their assistance,” Scott said.

He is working on legislation to do just that, Scott said.

The National Park Service estimates that Colorado National Monument generates $23 million in economic activity annually in western Colorado.

“Tourism has a big impact on the state and local economy,” Diane Schwenke, president of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, said.

Having the state open the national parks “is worth the investment.”

Arches and Canyonlands national parks in Utah and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado reopened at 8 this morning under separate agreements between the Obama administration and state officials.

Colorado National Monument, however, remains locked down, as do Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Great Sand Dunes national parks in Colorado.

Colorado officials sought the cooperation of the Interior Department in reopening Rocky Mountain National Park, citing last month’s catastrophic flooding that caused major damage in the town of Estes Park.

Wright said he was trying to determine from the Park Service the daily cost to operate Colorado National Monument in the fall season and comparing that to their cost to keep it closed. “I’m willing to bet we won’t be happy with those numbers,” Wright said.

The state, however, should take over management of the Roan Plateau, where drilling has been stymied by environmental opposition, King said.

Better to put more into projects with more significant payoff, King said.

“If you look at the revenue we need to rebuild roads and other infrastructure issues, I don’t know that parks rise to the level of how I would prioritize them,” King said.



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Today’s companion headlines – “Ending crisis no walk in the park” and “No deal, with debt deadline looming” – illustrate Republicans’ haphazard approach to governance.

Both in Washington and here, Republican office-holders act “surprised” when the inane “government shutdown” they orchestrated adversely impacts their local constituencies.

Since August 2011, guidance for managing an orderly shutdown of the government has been provided in Office of Management & Budget (“OMB”) Circular No. A-11, which requires federal agencies to promulgate “shutdown contingency plans”.

The National Park Service’s (“NPS”) plan states that all facilities would be closed unless “they are deemed essential for health and safety reasons, are needed to support on-going excepted NPS activities or are located in urban areas where full NPS law enforcement coverage is continued due to the inability to control visitor access.”

Because major monuments in D.C. remained open in the 1995 and 1996 shutdowns (when there was no “sequestration”), the House Committee on Natural Resources will hold a hearing next week, entitled, “As Difficult As Possible: The NPS’s Implementation of the Government Shutdown”.  Stay tuned. 

Thus, local Republican politicos Steve King, Ray Scott, and Jared Wright would have more credibility if they jointly signed a letter to “Tea Party” Congressman Scott Tipton demanding that he publicly commit to voting to reopen the entire government – now.

Given his past legislative proposals, Ray Scott’s notion of transferring management responsibility for national parks and monuments from the federal to state governments would presumably be funded in Colorado by further cuts to education – or privatization!

Meanwhile, Republican Mesa County Commissioner candidate Gregg Palmer told a local group on Friday that “the only jobs government creates are government jobs”. Obviously, the current brouhaha over national parks and the shutdown’s local economic impacts proves just how dumb this ideologically distorted view of “the multiplier effect” really is.

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