Community-driven park legislation
A few people may criticize Colorado Sen. Mark Udall and 3rd District Rep. Scott Tipton for establishing a committee of Mesa County residents to attempt to draft legislation that would designate Colorado National Monument as a national park and simultaneously address community concerns about the designation. It will be seen by some folks as passing the buck.
Of course, if Udall and Tipton wrote the bill themselves, they would be accused of pushing park designation from Washington and not adequately listening to locals’ concerns.
We applaud Udall and Tipton for seeking — in the most community-friendly way — to develop legislation to change the redrock spires and canyons from a monument to a park.
Furthermore, as noted by Glade Park rancher Warren Gore — who is on the new committee and has witnessed several previous efforts to change the status of Colorado National Monument — ideas to change and/or enlarge the monument seem to come along every decade or so, usually provoking disputes among local residents.
We agree with Gore that there is an opportunity now to end those periodic battles by producing legislation which clearly addresses the primary community concerns and identifies exactly what the monument’s status will be.
Of course, some people simply don’t want to see the monument named a national park, and they won’t be satisfied with a change, no matter how well the legislation addresses concerns.
Tipton has said the people with whom he has discussed the potential change seem nearly equally divided into one of three camps: those who support the change, those who oppose it and those who are uncertain about it. He hopes the committee can attract some of those wavering about the issue, and even some of the opposition, to support the change.
There’s certainly reason to be optimistic about it.
The primary concerns about the change to park status are well-known, and the community’s interests are protected under current law and legal rulings. Those concerns include worries about a change in the air-quality designation of the monument when it becomes a park, access to Glade Park, potential expansion of the monument’s boundaries or creation of a buffer zone around it and potential damage to area businesses.
But, for those who aren’t convinced that the existing protections are adequate, the legislation to be drafted by the community group can specifically address the concerns with provisions in the bill. In fact, such a bill could afford the community far greater protection from future executive decisions or National Park Service policies than it has now.
Udall and Tipton have demonstrated they are willing to go the extra mile to get a bill that can win broad community support. The five-member committee they have appointed is well-chosen to meet the challenges of drafting that bill.