Udall eyes monument upgrade

The on-again, off-again discussion about whether Colorado National Monument should be treated on a par with Canyonlands, Arches, Yellowstone and Black Canyon of the Gunnison national parks will get a boost from Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.

Udall, who chairs the Senate’s National Parks subcommittee, plans to hold meetings in the Grand Valley for community discussion about the status of Colorado National Monument.

“I believe national park status for Colorado National Monument would draw more visitors to the area and create jobs in the process,” Udall said. “The monument’s extraordinary ancient red-rock canyons and towering monoliths certainly qualify it for national park status.”

Udall last week acknowledged that the idea of changing the national monument to a national park has been discussed of late.

In raising the issue himself, Udall said he wanted a complete assessment of the idea.

The process must be done right, Udall said, “which is why I plan to begin by holding meetings in the community to get input from residents, park officials and others, and to ensure we’re looking at all sides of the issue.”

There is no shortage of confusion about the significance of the landmark’s name, monument Superintendent Joan Anzelmo said.

“We hear day in and day out from visitors about how they had no idea” of the scale and beauty of the place. One person told her that a recent visitor from the area thought a visit to the area involved a visit to a stone marker.

“That kind of thing plays out constantly,” Anzelmo said.

Designating the monument a national park “raises the profile of this wonderful area and it helps the public instantly understand what’s up here,”  Anzelmo said.

The subject of national park status for the 20,000-acre Colorado National Monument last arose during the Clinton administration, which raised the issue of expanding the monument via an executive order under the Antiquities Act.

The upshot was the establishment of Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area to the west of the monument, which included the designation of the Black Ridge Wilderness area.

The name of the conservation area later was changed by Congress to McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area in recognition of U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo, who worked with local officials, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and others to fend off the executive declaration while achieving many of the goals it was intended to accomplish.

John Otto originally touted the idea of naming the monument area Colorado Canyons.


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