Park supporter, opponents voice distrust of federal action
The federal government came in for criticism on both sides of the issue of national park status for Colorado National Monument on Wednesday.
The monument could be a presidential playground under current law, park-status supporter Terri Chappell said.
The legislative process is far from trustworthy, former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo., said.
The two spoke to about 20 people, many of them park opponents, at a meeting of Associated Members for Growth and Development in the Grand Junction Area Board of Realtors, Compass Drive building.
The Antiquities Act of 1906, the law under which President William Howard Taft established Colorado National Monument in 1911, hasn’t been changed and President Barack Obama today could expand its boundaries, Chappell said.
Chappell is a member of Grand Valley Region Citizens for a National Park.
Grand Valley residents can work with efforts to attain park status, she said, “Or you can trust President Obama to not take action in his last days,” unlike what President Clinton did with the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Clinton in 1996 used the Antiquities Act to unilaterally establish the 1.8 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, to the chagrin of officials in Utah who complained they weren’t consulted.
Clinton also moved to expand Colorado National Monument west to the Utah border under the Antiquities Act, but signed legislation in 2000 establishing what is now McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area along the monument’s western edge.
The best way to prevent the president from acting on his own to expand the monument is to make it a national park so that Congress would have to approve any changes, Chappell said.
McInnis, who stressed that he doesn’t oppose park status for the monument, said pitfalls await in Congress.
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., has said he will allow the local community to draft the bill, but that’s not the issue, McInnis said.
“The question is what’s going to come out” of the legislative process, he said.
Several organizations, including the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association and Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, have conditionally endorsed park status.
Among the conditions are that there will be no higher air-quality standards and that a local oversight committee could reverse National Park Service decisions.
Those provisions would likely have to go if legislation is to move forward, McInnis said.
Park status also could give the National Park Service more heft in issues outside the boundaries of the park, such as with industrial development in the Grand Valley, McInnis said.
“If they stayed within the boundaries of the national park, (park status) would be terrific,” McInnis said.
Udall and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., have said they will decide this summer whether to offer a bill.