Udall: Monument-to-park bill coming soon

Sen. Mark Udall, left, addresses possible national park status for Colorado National Monument and other National Park Sevice lands around the state in his opening remarks Friday at a meeting with local interested parties at Colorado Mesa University’s student center. Listening to Udall are former Fruita mayor Ken Henry, center, and Tom Kleinschnitz of Adventure Bound.



Draft legislation on changing Colorado National Monument to a national park will “ideally” be released for public review by April 1, Sen. Mark Udall told a group of about 60 people in Grand Junction Friday.

But Udall said he is still working out the details with 3rd District Congressman Scott Tipton for releasing the document and making it available for comment, so he could not guarantee the release date.

Tipton was not present at Friday’s meeting at Colorado Mesa University, but his office issued a statement afterward saying, “We look forward to the community’s comments and ideas that will come from this public comment period, and will take them into careful consideration as we determine what’s next.”

Udall, a Democrat, and Tipton, a Republican, formed a citizens committee three years ago to investigate the possibility of changing the monument to a national park. Last year, they named a five-member working group to draft potential legislation that would address community concerns about the proposed change.

That group presented a draft to Udall and Tipton earlier this year, but the two have not yet released it to the public. On Friday, Udall said that he and Tipton hoped to release the draft “in the short term.”

But local resident Rebecca Frank pressed Udall on the timing. “What is the short term?” she asked. “Does that mean by the time the kids are out of school?”

Udall at first avoided offering a date, but finally said “ideally by April 1.”

Much of Friday’s meeting was taken up with the same sorts of comments people have been making about the proposed change for the past three years.

Grand Junction City Councilor Duncan MacArthur told Udall, “There is plenty of opposition in town over this.” While it’s true people in Grand Junction a century ago supported a national park where the monument now sits, he added, “A hundred years ago, they couldn’t possibly foresee the extent of federal regulations and how they would affect our economy.”

However, Greg Mikolai, a member of the committee formed three years ago, reiterated the fact that regulations would remain the same, whether the area is a monument or a park.

If it becomes a park, Mikolai said, “It may not be the largest in the necklace that is our national park system, but it will shine as brightly as any other jewel in the necklace.”

Udall said if legislation is introduced and there is any attempt in Congress to fundamentally change provisions supported by the community, “Congressman Tipton and I will pull our support” and the bill won’t move forward, he said.


COMMENTS

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Kudos to Mr. Tipton and Mr. Udall for moving forward toward legislation and for paying unprecidented attention to addressing local concerns within the national park draft bill.  Thank you to the many local leaders who took the time to meet and voice their passionate support.
Greg Mikolai is correct that the NPS regulations for national monuments and national parks are identical.  As for how national parks impact economy’s of surrounding Gateway towns?  Time and again research shows the impact is overwhelmingly positive.
  For those few left on the fence, the release of entirely community driven draft legislation will answer most if not all remaining questions or concerns and clear up any lingering misinformation once and for all.
We look forward to it as does the drafting committee.  After a long three year process and with the draft done, why wait?  The creation of a national park truly exemplifies democracy at its best. We applaud the Representatives for making it public as soon as possible.
Terri Chappell
GVR-Citizens for a National Park
http://www.gjforparkstatus.com

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