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.