Tipton Announces Opposition to Colorado National Monument Status Change

WASHINGTON— Citing a lack of community consensus and support, Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO) announced today that he will not draft or introduce any legislation that attempts to change the status of the Colorado National Monument to a national park, and will also actively oppose any attempts to do so in the House of Representatives. Tipton has stated throughout a two year community exploratory effort that local support and community consensus was required for any consideration of a change in the status or management of the Monument.

Tipton and Senator Mark Udall recently completed a 90 day period during which they solicited comments from the community on a proposal, crafted by a citizen working group, to change the Monument to a national park. The comments submitted to the offices clearly indicated that there was no consensus in the community on the issue, that the majority of Mesa County residents who submitted comments are opposed to national park status, and that there are significant concerns and uncertainty within the community over how regulation and Executive Branch rule-making could impact the local economy and existing industries should the status of the Monument change. Additionally, thousands of petition signatures on the Monument have been delivered to Tipton and Udall’s offices that also show a lack of local consensus or support for a change to the Monument’s status.

“While the Colorado National Monument is here for all of us to enjoy and explore, it is most intimate to the people of Mesa County and is integral to this community. From the beginning, I approached this process from the standpoint that should the community, with consensus from all sectors, want to change the Colorado National Monument to a national park, then I would, as their representative, listen to their input with the condition that it be done in a way that would have no adverse impact to existing industries or economic development,” said Tipton. “This process has made it clear that not only is there no community consensus on the issue, but that there are many concerns regarding potential adverse impacts the change could impose on the local economy with regard to increased regulation and federal government scrutiny.”

As part of the 90 day comment period, Tipton and Udall held a public listening session on May 17, during which the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel covered the lack of community consensus, reporting that, “Speakers on both sides of the issue, meanwhile, demonstrated that two years of discussion has done little to heal the fracture in the Grand Valley on the future of the monument.”

The Mesa County Board of Commissioners spoke to that division in a letter to Tipton and Udall on June 30, 2013 writing, “The Mesa County Board of Commissioners have been present at various meetings and events in which our constituents have been discussing the proposed conversion. It is clear to us that not only is there no consensus within our community but more polarization appears to be present with every dialogue we hear.”

During the May 17 public listening session and throughout the comment process many Mesa County citizens, both against and for park status, voiced concerns that the community could be negatively impacted should anything change with regard to current management and regulation of the Monument including air quality standards, buffer zones and travel on the Monument.

“The likelihood for legislation to pass both the House and Senate without impacting current air quality standards, buffer zones and travel on the monument is miniscule. Even if it did, it doesn’t pass the straight-face test to assume that it wouldn’t draw the attention of agency bureaucrats and generate a slew of litigation from outside groups pushing for more stringent restrictions that could drastically impact existing industries in Mesa County,” Tipton said. “Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the letter of the law would be followed by federal agencies. We’ve seen federal regulators circumvent Congressional intent in the law countless times in order to impose more restrictive rules and regulations—look no further than the EPA and Forest Service attempts currently underway to redefine their own regulatory scope in order to restrict access to private water rights. These types of agency actions create great uncertainty for impacted communities, restricting investment, job creation and prosperity. A change in the status of the Monument could at the very least create an increased level of uncertainty over future regulatory impacts to the Mesa County area, and possibly more stringent regulations in and around the Monument. When it comes to growing economic opportunity and creating jobs, it is done successfully through less regulatory uncertainty, not more.”

With a clear lack of community consensus or support for a change to park status, and abounding concerns and uncertainty that national park status could be detrimental to the region, Congressman Tipton opposes a change in status.

“In a region that has experienced firsthand the adverse impacts that federal agency decisions can have on the economy and access to public lands, the community’s concerns that a national park could attract additional scrutiny from federal regulators is well-founded. Just last month, without any notice or public consultation, the National Park Service announced that it would no longer allow the transport of vital fuels on Monument road to the residents of Glade Park. While the Park Service backpedaled on this overreach for the time being, it was a betrayal of the community’s trust and illustrative of the significant impact that agency decisions can have on the local community,” said Tipton. “From the beginning of this process I have said that any change in the status or management of the Monument must be community-driven and locally supported with broad community consensus. The lack of local support and consensus closes the issue and I will not draft nor introduce legislation to change the status of the Monument, and I will actively oppose any outside attempts to do so in the House of Representatives.”

Timeline:

  • May 19, 2011: At the request of local industry and economic development groups including CLUB 20, the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, West Slope COGA, and others Congressman Tipton and Senator Udall announce the formation of a community group to consider turning the Colorado National Monument into a national park.  The group was comprised of 16 community leaders, and ended up making no recommendation on whether or not to change the status of the Monument citing a lack of consensus in the community on the issue.
  • June 8, 2013: At the continued urging of local industry and economic development groups to continue the conversation on the Colorado National Monument and potential park status, Congressman Tipton and Senator Udall announce a citizen working group comprised of five members tasked with drafting recommendations to be incorporated should legislation be crafted to change the Monument to a national park.
  • April 1, 2014: Congressman Tipton and Senator Udall announce a 90 day public comment period on the recommendations made by the citizen working group regarding park status.
  • May 17, 2014: Congressman Tipton and Senator Udall hold a community listening session in Grand Junction on the working group proposal.
  • June 30, 2014: Completion of the 90 day public comment period.