With Valentine’s Day not far behind us, we want to send a love note to our public lands. After all the attacks on national monuments coming out of Washington, D.C., we figure they need a little love.
Coloradans across the state love our national monuments, whether they use them for hunting and fishing, climbing or biking, exploring ancient civilizations or tracking dinosaurs — even mining or drilling. What’s not to love? Apparently, Congressman Rob Bishop from Utah can’t find a thing.
After President Donald Trump slashed the size of Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent, I thought the attacks on national monuments and other unique landscapes might stop at the Utah border. Rep. Bishop proved me wrong.
You may have heard about his ironically-named National Monument Creation and Protection Act, a bill that actually guts the century-old Antiquities Act. Rep. Bishop wants to narrow dramatically the kind of landscapes, landmarks and structures that may be protected with a monument designation. He also wants to give this president and all future presidents the unilateral, unchecked ability to slash monuments by up to 85,000 acres.
Colorado has eight of the country’s 129 national monuments, including Browns Canyon, Canyons of the Ancients and Chimney Rock.
As one of 80 volunteers at the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association, I am committed to the preservation of our public lands, not just our national monuments, but our national forests, national parks, national wildlife refuges and Bureau of Land Management property. These public lands protect our ancient artifacts, cultural resources, unique landscapes and natural landmarks. We share that commitment with thousands of our visitors. As a resident of this area, I am committed to the economic stability and local success that public lands, especially national monuments, bring to the areas in which they are located.
The many positive impacts of national monuments are indisputable. Rep. Scott Tipton, in particular, should understand this since he has important monuments in his district that generate tourism and jobs.
However, last October in the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Tipton voted for Bishop’s bill, even while acknowledging the successes and economic benefits of Chimney Rock National Monument. We’ve always considered Rep. Tipton a strong ally of Chimney Rock and appreciate his support. In 2012, he supported its national monument designation through the Antiquities Act, the same act it seems he now wants to disempower.
He has used Chimney Rock’s economic impact success story time and time again as an example of how the Antiquities Act can benefit local economies, create jobs and preserve precious cultural resources. That’s why we are confused by his October vote. We urge him to return to his position of just six years ago and support his district’s and the nation’s best interests. His constituents agree with our position. A recent Global Strategy Group poll showed that 75 percent of respondents would be more favorable toward Tipton if he supports laws that preserve public lands with national monument protections and 62 percent would be more favorable if he opposes laws that allow a president to unilaterally remove protections without the approval of Congress.
In this Valentine’s month, we call upon Rep. Tipton to show us his love for public lands and fight back against these assaults on monuments by voting no on Rep. Bishop’s Anti-Antiquities Act.
Ernest O’Toole is board president of the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association.