Leadership lacking in discussion of National Monument name change

Last Thursday, you may have read in The Daily Sentinel about the House of Representatives passing bipartisan legislation to upgrade the Pinnacles National Monument in California to a national park.

President Barack Obama, according to The Durango Herald last week, will use his power under the Antiquities Act to declare the Chimney Rock Archaeological Area near Pagosa Springs a national monument.  That’s the same power another president, Republican William Howard Taft, used 101 years ago to create Colorado National Monument.

Down in southwestern Colorado and in central California, they apparently don’t see “a federal bogeyman under every piece of sagebrush,” as former Fruita Mayor Ken Henry colorfully put it in a New York Times piece last June about the local discussion over changing the status of the monument to a national park.

Even Congressman Scott Tipton, who’s introduced legislation to trim presidential authority under the Antiquities Act, signed on to the bipartisan request for creation of Chimney Rock National Monument, along with Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet.

If only that kind of leadership was evident here.

But instead of consensus, we find division and confusion. The committee Henry co-chaired with rancher Warren Gore couldn’t reach agreement after lengthy discussion and community outreach. That makes national park status for the monument too hot a potato for Tipton, Udall and Bennet. 

Udall’s glowing words about landscapes and preservation at the 100th anniversary celebration of the monument last year apparently won’t be translated into legislation worthy of his description. Celebratory July 4th climbs of Independence Rock will have to suffice, at least for the time being.

That’s too bad.

It’s unfortunate that the enthusiasm of the audience of several hundred locals Udall convened for a public meeting at Colorado Mesa University prior to the local committee’s efforts didn’t result in a conclusion other than embarrassing deadlock. And, to the degree that misconceptions about what the change might bring were responsible for the deadlock, that’s also unfortunate and perhaps an indictment of all of us who either support or oppose the designation.

Ironically, those bogeymen some found lurking under the sagebrush, pinon and juniper are empowered by the very inaction that’s the result of the deadlock. Unless, of course, those fears of boundary expansion, more trouble with access to and from Glade Park and Pinon Mesa, potential problems with Fruita’s water line and reservoirs or more restrictive management practices “up top” were just smokescreens masking underlying politics.

All of those supposed issues, in fact, are potentially made worse under the status quo. Finality, which could have become law with required congressional approval and only changed by a future vote in the U.S. Congress, remains vulnerable to either judges or the ink in a single signature by whoever might reside in the White House, now or in the future.

Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that a president named Obama or Romney might decide some day that McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area would make a great addition to Colorado National Monument. Under the Antiquities Act, all that would take would be a signature. But expansion of the boundaries of a national park would be an entirely different process, requiring instead the approval of Congress. 

Access to Glade Park and reservoir-pipeline issues could be written into a national park designation approved by Congress rather than left to the whim of the courts. So could confirmation of the fact that there’s absolutely no difference in management of a national park compared to management of a national monument.

Subsequent changes would require congressional approval. All that could add certainty to what some still see as an uncertain situation.

Something about noses and faces comes to mind.

When Air Force One approaches and later departs the airport formerly known as Walker Field this week, it’s possible the president may steal a glance at the towering spires and red rock canyons of the Colorado National Monument that Gov. Romney likely viewed a few weeks ago.

Less visible, but very apparent, is the total lack of leadership that apparently has cost us the opportunity to crown that jewel with the status it deserves, designation as a national park.

“A child of five could understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.” — Groucho Marx.

Jim Spehar has no idea how his spouse, who wears the flat hat of a seasonal ranger on the monument each summer, feels about these issues. Your thoughts are welcome at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


COMMENTS

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Opinions are like certain unnamed body parts: everybody has one.
I don’t really have a dog in the monument vs. park hunt, although I thought Dave Poling’s letter was pretty close to the mark. It seems to me there either are, or ought to be, well-established official criteria for the naming of such resources as Colorado National Monument. I’m OK with handling the matter accordingly.
The reason I decided to comment is to share of couple of things I dislike.
It’s a bit like the so-called “Global Warming” nonissue. I am extremely interested in knowing the actual facts, but whatever they are, I don’t want a bunch of politically cutesy-pie jerks, er “leaders”, trying to get rich off of abusing the taxing power of the government by coming up with a cockamamy plan to tax everybody into a hypothetically cooler Earth.
In the case of the CNM, I’m not emotionally invested in either the park or monument denomination. I just can’t stand the idea that come political cutesy pies who lack the marble count and/or intellectual honesty to function as my “leaders” want to change the name as a mere marketing ploy to try to put more money into their pockets and those of their cronies. I have always had what I consider to be a certain amount of healthy antipathy toward marketing/developer types who like to make their money by screwing up the quality of life in rural areas where land is affordable, then take their loot to a new area where land is still cheaper and “Californicate” (aka “develop”) that.
I have also always despised the elitist leftist notion that there are no such things as the natural laws of economics, and that if the marketing cheerleaders can only think up a clever enough lie that it will persuade the lower-form-of-life yokel citizenry to go along with it, then the narrative and agenda of that deception actually becomes the new reality through the magic of political manipulation. I say, “Bah humbug!” to that sort of cheerleading. I’m allergic to it.
Lastly, regarding the “whims of the courts” vs the whims of Congress, I trust the permanent injunction of the U.S. District Court recognizing nonrecreational access to Glade Park more than I do Congress to write that permanent access adequately into law.

Wow, un-forseen by me was the Spehar bus coming around the corner….....
A couple items of note for you to consider, Jim:
The committee was not charged to be a proponent for park status.
The charge of the committee was to gauge community support, and then report our findings to the congressional delegation. The results simply showed that less than half, or 42-45% of people polled by several different methods, supported the change in status, just to promote tourism.
The co-chairs in particular, took great pains to remain neutral, while all available information was gathered.
As I stated in a television interview locally, in order for an idea like this to gain traction, it needs to have a little broader support than 40 some percent of the locals affected by the change.
I guess by not pounding the ‘park’ drum a little louder for those in support, we are not ‘leaders’, guilty as charged.
Your assessment of solving the complicated issues surrounding a park status bill, were more accurate, but we were not asked to make a recommendation on those issues, let alone craft any type of language for a potential bill.
I think this just demonstrates the political deadlock we see at all levels of govt., where we need to start finding solutions in the middle of the road somewhere, and quit calling people out from the far left, or far right.
Warren Gore, co-chair, citizens committee

Well said Warren.  I normally do not comment on anything I see in the Sentinel but I totally support your statements and want others to know that.. I also think there is a bit of inaccuracy in Jim’s article regarding that meeting with several hundred people in attendance…I sat in that audience…and even there people were divided.  To assert that everyone was in support who attended that meeting is an overstatement and a reach.  Opinions were just a divided there as they were during subsequent open houses and polling done by the Committee.

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