In praise of public lands

Conservation group on tour to halt review of national monuments

Lori Buck, mayor of Fruita, talks Monday about the importance of public lands, specifically Colorado National Monument, to the economy and the physical health and mental well-being of her community during a Monuments to America RV road tour sponsored by the Center for Western Priorities. Joining Buck at the Las Colonias Park Amphitheater in Grand Junction are Greg Zimmerman, left, deputy director of the center, and Sarah Shrader, co-owner of Bonsai Design and founder of the Outdoor Recreation Coalition of the Grand Valley.

A Colorado conservation group kicked off a six-state tour Monday in Grand Junction by calling for President Donald Trump and U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to halt the process of reviewing national monuments.

Officials from the Center for Western Priorities were joined by local community and government leaders to advocate for public land preservation and access.

Greg Zimmerman, deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities, said public lands are facing “unprecedented attacks” through the review process ordered by Trump in April.

The order directs Zinke to study whether any national monuments designated after 1996 were created without adequate public outreach, place a burden on local governments or curtail economic growth.

Colorado National Monument is not under review.

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in southwestern Colorado was on the initial list of monuments to be reviewed. During a Senate hearing last month, Zinke told U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner that Canyons of the Ancients was not on the department’s priority review list.

Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah are also being reviewed by Zinke.

“An attack on even one national monument is an existential threat to all monuments and the communities that benefit from them, and that includes Grand Junction and the Colorado National Monument,” Zimmerman said.

Fruita Mayor Lori Buck said public lands have always been an integral part of her life and are essential to the economic future of the Grand Valley.

“Public lands are an economic driver in this community,” she said. “They have an impact on physical health and mental well-being, and most people that live here value the public land access and understand the benefits of having them in their backyard.”

Zack Kelly, a lands with wilderness characteristics technician at the Bureau of Land Management, said public lands are an important part of his identity.

Kelly, who also volunteers for conservation and wilderness groups, was one of a handful of people who showed up for the event at Las Colonias Park.

“I would not enjoy life half as much if I didn’t have public lands or access to them, and any talk about reducing their size is a reduction in the potential for my happiness,” Kelly said.

Zimmerman said Colorado National Monument is an example of a national monument that works.

“The community benefits that the national monument provides are transparent and the people living here get it,” Zimmerman said.

“The other places we’re going are actually at risk. They’re equally spectacular with the same outdoor recreation opportunities and have the same potential to benefit those communities, and this administration’s review could do away with that.”

The tour will continue to New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah.


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