Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on Friday lauded a decision by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to essentially leave Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Colorado alone, with the federal government no longer reviewing its protected status for possible modification.
“It’s great to hear that no changes will come to our popular Canyons of the Ancients,” Hickenlooper said. “We’ve had great conversations with Secretary Zinke and we’re grateful that he respected the overwhelming consensus in Colorado on our national monument.”
President Donald Trump in April signed an executive order requiring a review of all 27 national parks and monuments protected by presidents using executive action under the Antiquities Act since 1996.
In Colorado, that meant three national monuments could have had their federal protections removed or possibly lose some land to state control for mining, oil and gas drilling or other extractive uses : Browns Canyon near Salida (designated in 2015), Chimney Rock near Pagosa Springs (designated in 2012), and Canyons of the Ancients near Cortez (designated in 2000).
Trump also mentioned by name the Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern, Utah, where many Western Slope Colorado residents go to mountain bike, hike and climb. Bears Ears, which contains the iconic Natural Bridges National Monument, has been targeted for reduction.
Now, at least one of those national monuments in Colorado has been removed from the federal hit list.
In a press release, Conservation Colorado pointed out that Zinke made his announcement while in Colorado
speaking to “two ultra-conservative events,” referring to American Legislative Exchange Council and the Western Conservative Summit. Selling off public lands for resource exploitation was a part of the Republican Party platform last summer but remains a nonstarter in Colorado.
“While we are of course pleased that Canyons of the Ancients has been spared from dismantling or eradication, this wildly popular and culturally important monument should never have been under review in the first place,” said Scott Braden, wilderness and public lands advocate at Conservation Colorado.
“Secretary Zinke’s arbitrary ‘review’ of our national parks and monuments is a sham that amounted to nothing more than a waste of government time and taxpayer dollars. If anything, his attempt to erode support for national monuments has only increased public support for them, especially those that remain on the chopping block. “
Braden went on to enumerate the efforts by Zinke’s Interior Department to erode the overwhelming public support for public lands — as evidenced by the state’s recent celebration of Colorado Public Lands Day — and the specific steps taken by the administration to undermine federal management of public lands.
“While Secretary Zinke may look like he is being responsive to the overwhelming support for Canyons of the Ancients, the reality is that his tenure thus far has been characterized by precedent-setting efforts to take the public out of public lands decisions,” Braden added. “He is playing political games with our public lands and our economy, and Coloradans deserve better.”
Braden criticized these moves made by the Interior Department in just the first six months of the Trump administration:
Suspended Resource Advisory Councils, a primary venue for representatives from Western communities to give feedback and input.
Initiated a “review” of the Greater sage grouse plan, an unprecedented collaboration between Western states, counties, conservation groups, and oil and gas industry organizations.
Championed the effort to repeal Bureau of Land Management planning improvements which provided local communities with opportunities to provide feedback on public lands management.
Recommended that neighboring Bears Ears National Monument in Utah be shrunk.