Park it here

It’s been almost two decades since then-Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell and officials with Colorado National Monument began assessing local support for turning the red towers, cliffs and canyons west of Grand Junction into a national park.

That effort fell flat. But a national-park proposal now being discussed makes far more sense and deserves to move forward.

The main problem with the 1990s plan was it called for increasing the size of the national monument more than five times, gobbling up 100,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management property.

Locals correctly understood that putting all that BLM land in national park status would endanger activities such as grazing, hunting, off-road vehicle use and dispersed camping. But those activities were allowed to continue when Congress designated what is known as McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area.

The current proposal to make Colorado National Monument a national park would not expand the boundaries of the monument, nor would it change how those lands are managed.

But it would increase the public profile for the area. Imagine someone planning a trip, and Googling “national parks in Colorado.” The first item that shows up in such a search makes no mention of Colorado National Monument, but it does list the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park near Montrose, along with Rocky Mountain, Great Sand Dunes and Mesa Verde national parks.

The designation change is a worthwhile effort that Sen. Mark Udall and people in this community should pursue.


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