Whoa, say park retirees

Group supports change, but not in proposed fashion

Visitors stop at the Independence Monument Overlook in Colorado National Monument on Tuesday afternoon.  The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees urged federal legislators to reject proposed legislation to redesignate the monument.

An organization of retired employees of the National Park Service likes the idea of promoting Colorado National Monument to a national park, just not the way a group of residents suggested.

The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees urged federal legislators to reject proposed legislation to redesignate the monument.

The coalition cited several objections to proposed provisions prohibiting a buffer zone for the park; assurances of existing air-quality rules and a proposed advisory committee in a letter to federal legislators.

“What is especially troubling about this draft legislation is that it contains no language concerning the essential reason for establishing a national park, i.e., preservation of its outstanding resources and values for the enjoyment of present and future generations, but rather contains many provisions that make achievement of that goal more difficult,” the letter said. “In fact, this bill raises such significant concerns that we have to wonder whether it was drafted in order to stop progress toward redesignating Colorado National Monument as a ‘national park.’”

Those concerns caused the coalition to oppose the measure drafted by five Mesa County residents, the letter to U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., and Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said.

The proposed new name for the 20,000-acre monument also failed to muster any support with the retirees association, which claims to work on behalf of nearly 1,000 Park Service retirees who collectively represent 30,000 years of service.

Instead of “Rim Rock Canyons National Park,” the new park should be called “Colorado Canyons National Park,” as was suggested a century ago, the coalition said.

The proposed legislation’s section prohibiting buffer zones around the park suggests that the secretary of the Interior “does not even have the well-established right of all property owners to take action against activities occurring on adjacent lands that interfere with the use and enjoyment of his or her property.”

The provision could allow a “local nuisance to devalue a national asset without legal recourse,” the letter to the legislators said.

The provision was included in the proposed legislation to prevent the National Park Service from reaching beyond the boundaries of the park to prevent development elsewhere — a major bone of contention for critics of park status.

The draft bill’s provision aimed at giving Mesa County approval over any changes in the air-quality status of the new park makes the issue a local decision, the letter says.

“The Clean Air Act struck the better balance in section 164 almost 40 years ago, and the draft legislation’s additional requirement for Mesa County approval is characteristic of the imbalance that pervades this draft legislation,” the letter says.

The coalition saved some of its strongest criticism for the proposed advisory committee to the park.

“It is clear that the purpose of this ‘advisory committee’ is to increase the influence of local business and development interests over the administration of the new park under national park laws and policies that have stood the test of time,” the coalition said.

The draft legislation calls for a 15-member committee, including representatives from local governments and communities in the Grand Valley, the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association and the Southern Ute tribe.

The retirees coalition said Congress should guard against the “potential from this advisory committee for destructive micromanagement.”

The committee membership “does not pass the ‘red face test,’” the coalition said, noting that it “overwhelmingly represents local interests, some of which are not even park-related.”

A representative of the Northern Ute tribe would be more appropriate, the coalition said.

The letter, signed by Maureen Finnerty, chairwoman of the coalition, also faulted the draft measure for failing to cite the need to preserve the monument.


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