Ending crisis no walk in the park
Legislators split on how to reopen monument
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.