Heads need to roll over monument ban
First things first. Designating Colorado National Monument as a national park will not give the federal government any more authority than it already has to manage the land in question.
Not that it needs any. The National Park Service has proven itself quite capable of making unpopular decisions regardless of misconceptions about the level of authority it derives from one designation over another.
So, the public shouldn’t point to the agency’s recent decision to ban trucks from hauling propane or other fuels on Monument Road as a harbinger of federal overreach to come. It should simply condemn the decision on its face. It’s wrong because it bucks procedure. Indeed, there was no procedure whatsoever to justify this change.
Park Superintendent Lisa Eckert has done herself no favors in fighting perceptions of a tone-deaf federal agency that cares little about being a good neighbor.
It’s clear the Park Service did not take the proper steps to undergird such a major federal action. Eckert cited safety concerns aired during “public listening sessions” with Glade Park and other residents, but no mention of a proposed ban was ever posted on the Colorado National Monument website or the Federal Register. Nobody, apparently, other than Eckert knew that a ban on fuel and propane trucks was a potential outcome of the listening sessions.
The sessions were nowhere near substantive enough to alter Glade Park’s long-standing and continual right of way. In 1986 Glade Park residents won a federal court ruling upholding the right to use the East Hill route through the monument without charge.
The Park Service prohibition of fuel or hazardous materials transportation on the East Hill means propane trucks will have to use Little Park Road to make deliveries to Glade Park residents, most of whom rely on propane for heating.
Eckert characterized the ban as pre-emptively heading off a disaster. A Park Service notice dated May 1 states the ban is necessary “for the maintenance of public health, protection of environmental or scenic values or protection of natural resources.”
Those are valid reasons and well within the scope of the Park Service’s management imperative — provided the agency follows National Environmental Policy Act guidelines. It clearly did not. It remains unclear who actually received the May 1 “notice.” As of this writing, it does not appear on the monument’s website, nor does it appear in the National Park Service’s online forum for such notices.
Our sense of outrage is less about the implications of the decision than the manner in which it was reached.
Was it done thoughtfully with the input of those affected? No. Instead, the Park Service is acting as if a disaster is imminent, despite a lack of evidence and a complete disregard for cargo, weight and size restrictions on the road that already safeguard the public welfare.
What we have is a capricious, arbitrary and drastic decision that breeds suspicion of the federal government and violates the public trust.
If the Park Service hopes to have any credibility in this community, it will stay the ban, pending the outcome of a bona fide NEPA process. We further call on National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to hold senior management at the monument accountable.
There are other methods of improving public safety, but they require meaningful dialogue and sustained working relationships. Not bans that materialize out of the ether.
A silver lining in this ordeal is that it perfectly illustrates the irrelevance of park status. Same agency. Same rules. Same arbitrary results.
Whether we have a monument or a national park, we will be dealing with the same Park Service. We need a Park Service that is serious about “enhancing and maintaining relationships with local communities,” as its website states.
It’s decisions like these that should give residents pause — not park status.
When things are this bad, how can they get any worse?