Montrose Commissioners Denounce Udall’s Curecanti Boundary Act
by Gus Jarvis
Oct 19, 2012 | 1862 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
OLD GLORY flapped in the wind last summer as a speed boat raced across Blue Mesa Reservoir, located within the Curecanti National Recreation Area. Sen. Mark Udall is proposing legislation that would make the National Park Service the sole management entity of the area. (Photo by Brett Schreckengost)
OLD GLORY flapped in the wind last summer as a speed boat raced across Blue Mesa Reservoir, located within the Curecanti National Recreation Area. Sen. Mark Udall is proposing legislation that would make the National Park Service the sole management entity of the area. (Photo by Brett Schreckengost)
slideshow

MONTROSE – On Monday, the Montrose Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved a letter to U.S. Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), asking him to reconsider the necessity of the Curecanti National Recreation Area Boundary Establishment Act that he announced last July.

The draft legislation, which is supported by Udall and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) but has not been formally introduced to the U.S. Senate, aims to establish the boundary of the Curecanti National Recreation Area and formally define the National Park Service’s role in managing and protecting the area.

The Curecanti NRA contains the lands surrounding Blue Mesa, Morrow Point and Crystal reservoirs (collectively called the Aspinall Storage unit) that lie east of Montrose.

Currently, there are lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Parks and Wildlife within the Curecanti NRA; Udall contends that the mesh of agencies creates unnecessary challenges for the overall management and the conservation of its resources. The draft legislation proposes to streamline the management of the Curecanti NRA by formally defining that it would be the role of the National Park Service to manage all lands within its boundary without interfering with Bureau of Reclamation operations at the three dams.

The draft legislation also would allow NPS and willing landowners to work collaboratively to conserve private lands around Curecanti NRA by helping to maintain or improve wildlife habitat, water quality, natural scenery and other resources. The proposed Conservation Opportunity Area, as per the legislation, could, according to Udall, preserve up to 24,300 acres of private land  (participation would be completely voluntary).

“Establishing clear boundaries for the Curecanti National Recreation Area will ensure the continued preservation of this magnificent recreational resource for future generations,” Udall stated in a midsummer press release announcing the draft legislation. “Protecting public lands in the right way can support jobs, our economy, and the quality of life that makes Colorado the envy of the world.”

Udall requested that stakeholders in the region, including Montrose County, comment on the draft legislation and on Monday, the Montrose Commissioners approved a letter of comment to Udall and overwhelmingly expressed their distaste for the proposal.

The approved letter to Udall, dated Oct. 15 and signed by all three commissioners, generally stated that the board sees no need for such legislation, and that it could further infringe on public and private property rights.

“Currently, federal land management agencies have the ability to negotiate with

private property owners for the exchange and acquisition of property,” the letter states. “This Act does nothing to enhance that ability. In fact, the Act would result in property owners being limited to negotiation with the National Park Service within the designated ‘Conservation Opportunity Area.’ We fail to see the public benefit in this change.”

The letter went on to state that the commissioners “take issue” that the legislation is being used to remove additional public lands from resource development and that the act would prohibit mining, mineral and geothermal activity in the recreation area. The letter further states that the public is best served by leaving the area under the management of the U.S. forest service, the Bureau of Land Management and the State of Colorado.

“This is really a very unnecessary infringement upon the public and private property rights furthered by the federal government,” Commissioner Ron Henderson said before approving the letter at Monday’s meeting. “There really is nothing to be gained by supporting Senator Udall’s boundary establishment act of 2012.”

Both commissioners Gary Ellis and David White agreed.

“I think it’s pretty doggone onerous,” Ellis said. “I definitely would not support something like this. It is going in the wrong direction, and it has been for a number of years.”

“This is more government intrusion locking up our resources,” White said. “We have national parks. We have national recreation areas. We have a wilderness area. How much more do we need?”

Udall’s draft legislation comes after the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area Act was signed into law in 1999. Approval of the latter included a study of how to best protect the Curecanti NRA.The Curecanti NRA Resource Protection Study and Environmental Impact Study was released in 2008, recommending that Congress pass legislation defining the boundaries of the park and NPS’s authority. This legislation, according to Udall, is response to that study.

To view that study, visit parkplanning.nps.gov/documentsList.cfm?parkID=48&projectID=11243. For more information on Udall’s draft legislation, visit markudall.senate.gov.



Gjarvis@watchnewspapers.com

Twitter: @gusgusj

Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet