Udall won’t press monument change

Colorado National Monument will stay a monument for now, not necessarily one forever.

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., told a committee on Tuesday that no bill to change the monument to a park is in the offing.

“I can tell you we’re not going to just drop a bill,” Udall said, referring to himself and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., whose 3rd Congressional District includes the 20,000-acre monument overlooking the Grand Valley.

At the same time, Udall said, the discussion isn’t over.

After listening to comments by a dozen members of a committee that was appointed to study the issue for him and Tipton, Udall said there is room for more discussion.

“I heard openness” even from people who cited strong reservations to the proposal, Udall said. “I think its’s significant that nobody is saying a flat-out no.”

One with just such reservations, Glade Park rancher Warren Gore, who also serves as a co-chairman of the study committee, said he believed the issue still could move forward.

As a rancher who runs cattle trucks up and down Rim Rock Drive, Gore was one of the skeptics about the practicality of a measure, but he also acknowledged that the monument had the assets necessary for national park status.

“Redesignation would give Colorado National Monument the recognition it deserves,” Gore said.

Any bill would have to address several concerns and acknowledge the concerns of Grand Valley residents, he said.

“It’s a doable idea, but it’s got to have local input,” he said.

Udall started talk about park status in February 2011 with a town hall meeting at Colorado Mesa University in which he told hundreds of attendees that they could write a bill establishing the monument as a park, including protections for Glade Park residents needing access to the east end of Rim Rock Drive, keeping the boundaries the same as the monument and other issues.

He reiterated those comments on Tuesday, telling committee members that he might call on them again.

Committee members stressed that they were divided themselves on the question, and that the community seemed to be as well, so they were unable to offer a solid recommendation.

Udall also sought to allay fears that a bill might be loaded down with unwanted provisions.

“I know of no public-lands bill that has been hijacked by another state’s delegation,” he said. “Nobody from New Jersey or New York is going to screw around with it.”

Udall, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s subcommittee on national parks, said the logical approach would be for Tipton and him to drop identical bills at the same time in their respective houses, barring a different approach for tactical reasons.


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