Air and water rules won’t change if monument becomes a national park

By Warren Gore and Ken Henry

Sen. Mark Udall, in cooperation with Rep. Scott Tipton, appointed a group of community representatives to investigate and make recommendations about re-designating Colorado National Monument as a national park.

We, the committee charged with this task, are pleased to present our preliminary findings here. We have reached no final conclusions and make no recommendations, but our initial findings are below.

By way of background, the committee consists of 16 members: Glade Park landowners and ranchers, local business people, current and former elected officials, academics, conservationists and others engaged in community and public lands issues. Each of us came to this task with different preconceived notions about what a change would mean, but we each accepted our role to examine the issue from the standpoint of what is in the best interest of our community.

For the past eight months, the committee has engaged in purely information gathering. We have explored a number of topics including but not restricted to: Will the area be managed differently as a park? Will a change lead to more tourist activity? What are the regulatory implications of a change? Will the park boundaries be expanded?

We took statements from international tourism professionals, officials with the National Park Service, federal and state environmental regulation experts, traffic experts, as well as local hoteliers and others in the local tourism industry.

We consider the following information to be reliable based on our exploration of the issues to date.

Question: Does Colorado National Monument “meet the standard” to be considered for national park status?

Answer:  According to National Park Service criteria, and in discussions with park officials, Colorado National Monument in every way “meets the standard” for national park status.

Q: Is there any difference in the management of a national monument versus a national park?

A: According to the Park Service, national monuments and national parks are governed by the same rules, policies and regulations. We have also learned that park (or monument) superintendents have a fair amount of latitude within these rules.

Q: Would a change to national park status affect Glade Park access?

A: National Park Service officials confirm that access to Glade Park through the east entrance of the monument would continue unrestricted. They also confirmed that the court ruling allowing such access would remain applicable law with or without a national park designation. We also recognize that any law can be challenged in court at any time.

Q: Would a national park designation affect air quality standards for the park and surrounding areas?

A: Current air quality status as a Class-II area under the Clean Air Act would continue unchanged. Changing to a Class-I area would require a completely separate and cumbersome regulatory procedure, for which the monument would likely not qualify in the first place.

Q: Is there any impact to local, state or federal water issues?

A: Because Colorado National Monument does not have any perpetual water source and is not adjacent to any waterway, there are no water rights to be affected. Any future possible water issues can be addressed in the enabling legislation if perceived as needed.

Q: Would national park designation allow the National Park Service to expand the boundaries?

A:  Expansion of the boundaries may require separate congressional action. The point will need further clarification. At this time the Park Service has said there is no desire on the part of the National Park Service to significantly alter the current boundaries.  This is also an issue that should be addressed in any underlying legislation. The area’s proximity to McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area is ideal, as both protected areas allow for different uses. From a community standpoint, any expansion of current boundaries would not be necessary.

Q: Are there light pollution issues?

A:  Currently, there are no federal or state laws or regulations regarding light pollution. Moreover, because the same laws that govern national monuments govern national parks, if there were a change in the law, it would apply to the area regardless of whether it was a national monument or a national park.

Q: Would park designation provide additional legislative protections for the area?

A: Park status requires an act of the United States Congress. Creation of a national monument requires only an executive order of the president. Currently, the monument could be altered by a stroke of the president’s pen.

Q: Would a change lead to more tourist activity?

A: In all likelihood, the change would lead to more tourism activity. International tour operators routinely omit Colorado National Monument from their tours because their patrons do not equate national monuments with national parks. There is a confusion about national monuments that does not occur with national parks. Many perceive monuments as either junior national parks or consisting merely of a “monument” — a sign.

Q: Would increased tourist activity lead to congestion on the monument?

A: Over the years, traffic into the monument has tracked the population growth of Mesa County, so as local population grows, traffic will increase regardless of the area’s status. National Park officials contend that the existing capacity of the monument can accommodate some increased tourism activity. Nevertheless, should tourist activity increase substantially, there would be more crowding and the committee has not yet considered whether increased tourism revenue for the community would offset traffic concerns.

Q: How would park status impact the city of Fruita’s water pipeline?

A: The city of Fruita and the National Park Service are cooperating in discussions to determine a practical solution to the issue.  However, any park legislation should identify and make reference to the issue.

Again, though our work as a committee is not complete, we present these findings as a result of hearing from representatives of government, those engaged in tourism and others who have knowledge that can help us in this process.

We look forward to hearing from the community. A first step in that process is the opportunity to participate in an online survey that can be found on the Chamber of Commerce website, city of Grand Junction website, VCB website and The Daily Sentinel website. A series of open houses is also planned for later this spring.

Warren Gore and Ken Henry are co-chairmen of the committee. Other members are: Steve Acquafresca, Barb Bowman, Roger Granat, Bill Hood, Tom Kenyon, Scott McInnis, Greg Mikolai, Jack Neckels, Owen O’Fallon, Bonnie Petersen, John Redifer, Diane Schwenke and Jay Seaton.


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