Lack of leadership derailed park status

Citing a “clear lack of community consensus or support for a change to park status,” Congressman Scott Tipton announced he won’t carry legislation to make Colorado National Monument the nation’s newest national park.

Gee, what a surprise. At this point we question why Tipton bothered to take a role in the proposed conversion at all. It certainly wasn’t to lead on the issue. He simply sat back and waited for a few shrill voices to dominate the debate and then used lack of consensus as the handy justification to do nothing.

The same might be said of Sen. Mark Udall, except that Udall has at least acknowledged the economic benefits of park status. Tipton, on the other hand, has sounded the alarm that park status could invite federal overreach and regulatory overkill that threaten jobs.

It’s disingenuous to carry that belief and still be willing to introduce legislation to make the monument a park. But that’s what Tipton said he would do “with consensus from all sectors.” It would have been more productive for Tipton to say he opposed park status from the get-go. That would have spared us all from a fruitless endeavor. It certainly would have been more honest.

Consensus is achieved. It does not simply materialize over the course of a few meetings. It needs to be nurtured by leadership, and discourse. Udall and Tipton went through the motions of gathering public input without attempting to assuage fears or defend the benefits of park status. All of the concerns Tipton summarized in his statement opposing support for park status are just as valid under monument status because the rules for managing parks and monuments are the same. So what then? Should we convert the monument back to BLM land because it threatens our prosperity?

As we recently observed, Udall and Tipton didn’t have a statistically relevant measure of public opinion upon which to base a decision regarding park legislation. They only got loud, polarizing views. So, yes, citing a lack of consensus is a legitimate legislative response if you’re into the superficial.

But surrendering to the notion that a national park somehow creates a police state in the Grand Valley is disquieting to say the least. It hardly inspires great faith in our elected officials. How about doing the right thing by the community and then fighting like hell to make sure the federal government doesn’t infringe?

All in all, the park debate was an exercise in futility. Without bold leadership — without Udall and Tipton making a case for a national park — the process was always vulnerable to loud dissent. Why propose park legislation if you’re not convinced it’s in the best interests of your constituents? If you think it is, why not zealously argue the merits?

The bottom line is this: Park or monument, we’re living with the National Park Service as a close neighbor. With a park, we get the opportunity for more tourism dollars. With a monument we get the same old, same old. We’re disappointed, but not surprised by this outcome.

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