Park Service is not hobbled by consistency

For people who regularly visit or derive a living from our public lands, in Colorado and around the West, one of the most frustrating issues is inconsistency of management.

Why does this national forest seem to cooperate so well with users of off-road vehicles, while another one appears positively antagonistic? What makes oil and gas drilling such a problem on this BLM district, while it’s encouraged on another one?

Although they all operate under the same set of federal laws, there are clear differences from one location to another, and from one year to the next.

For inconsistency and questionable logic in public policy, however, it’s hard to top the National Park Service and how it deals with special events.

Most Daily Sentinel readers are familiar with the efforts of a local group to win support for a professional bicycle race to be staged, in part, across Rim Rock Drive on Colorado National Monument. That request has been repeatedly rejected by Park Service officials, from the local to the national level.

Even though such a race was staged across the monument for a number of years in the 1980s—and the federal laws governing such events remain exactly the same—federal officials have cited a variety of reasons, from environmental concerns to a Park Service policy that supposedly prohibits professional, for-profit events that include prize money for competitors.

However, a for-profit bike tour has been allowed, but college-level bike races have been rejected. And the annual marathon run across the monument could be jeopardized by repeated, year-to-year changes in Park Service requirements.

Now comes the news out of Utah that the Tour of Utah professional bike race will pass through parts of Cedar Breaks National Monument and Bryce Canyon National Park.

But there’s a difference, Park Service officials contend. The race in Utah will traverse state highways that just happen to cross through Park Service properties, while the proposal in Colorado was to race across a road that is a federal thoroughfare through Colorado National Monument.

The eastern portion of Rim Rock Drive is also a legally adjudicated public access to Glade Park, a connector between two sections of county road. Using similar logic to that applied in Utah, it’s difficult to see how the Park Service could deny a bicycle race for which the route ran from Grand Junction, out Monument Road and up through the national monument to Glade Park, perhaps making a loop to Little Park Road.

But that would be expecting too much harmony of policy for the Park Service, which seems to have embraced Ralph Waldo Emerson’s admonition that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” But Emerson was discussing human traits and individualism, not the formation of public policy.

The National Park Service could definitely use some consistency regarding how it handles events such as bike races and tours. And it ought to re-examine its refusal to allow a professional bike race to cross Colorado National Monument, particularly in light of the door-opening to our west.


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While I’m sympathetic to the overall thrust of this editorial, I’m still not sure how national consistency and attention to local needs keep from conflicting at times.

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