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|Making a Monument Out of Ruins, Part Four|
|Bill Hudson | 8/9/12|
|Back to the News Summaries|
Read Part One
"The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison—beyond description; absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world... Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children's children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see."
— President Theodore Roosevelt, 1903
In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt did something that Congressional leaders been attempting for 25 years — he set aside, as a preserve, an enormous canyon located within the territory of Arizona. (Arizona would become a state four years later.) We know that canyon today as the Grand Canyon National Park, 1.2 million acres of essentially unspoiled canyonlands, accessible from the north by Arizona State Route 67, and from the south by Route 64.
The park saw about 4.3 million visitors in 2011, but most of them didn’t get much farther than the canyon’s South Rim, from where they snapped a few digital photos and then headed back home. A century after its designation, the majority of the dramatic canyon is still accessible only via hiking trails. It’s a curious paradox of human behavior: if you want to preserve an awe-inspiring tract of land for future generations, you have to keep it relatively inaccessible. To keep it enjoyable, you must prevent people from enjoying it too much.
President Roosevelt managed to do, in 1908, what Congress had failed to do for 25 years, by making use of a federal law known as the Antiquities Act of 1906. That law had not, however, been written to encourage the creation of 1,900-square-mile parklands, but rather to protect small archaeological sites. Arguing that the Grand Canyon was a site of “scientific interest”, Roosevelt used an executive order to create the Grand Canyon National Monument. Eleven years later, Congress finally made the canyon into a national park. I guess, when you’re President, you have to bend the law a little sometimes, to get things done.
The Chimney Rock Archaeological Area — which, we now hear, will soon be designated as a National Monument via President Obama’s proclamation — is sort of like the Grand Canyon, in the same way that Pagosa Springs is sort of like New York City. Chimney Rock, with its archaeologically-interesting ruins, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Archuleta County; the volunteer group presents activities there on certain days, and a recent National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) economic impact study estimates about 9,720 “non-local” visitors per year. That would be “tourist visits.”
The NTHP study — which you can download here — claims that within 5 years of “National Monument” designation, the tourist visits to Chimney Rock would exactly double — to 19,440 visitors per year. So, we have to ask: wouldn’t that increased tourism impact would require a larger budget for maintenance and operations? Again referring to the NTHP study, we read:
“The NTHP cites that Chimney Rock lacks a clear cultural resource preservation mandate and needs additional funding. The organization also believes that national monument designation would bring Chimney Rock additional recognition, resources and protection.”
But the Republican Party line, which Rep. Scott Tipton seems to be trying to toe, demands that the federal government cut its expenses, unless the expenses are for the American military. The NTHP study suggests that national monument designation at Chimney Rock will require an increase in federal expenditures to handle the increased visitation. But Rep. Tipton’s authorization bill — Chimney Rock National Monument Establishment Act (H.R. 2621) — specifically states that no additional funds shall be allocated as a result of designation.
Additionally, Rep. Tipton is sponsoring House Resolution 817, which would amend the Antiquities Act of 1906 to require an “Act of Congress” before any new national monuments could be created. Here’s the proposed text of that resolution:
SECTION 1. REQUIREMENT FOR ESTABLISHMENT OF NATIONAL MONUMENT.
Section 2 of the Act of June 8, 1906 (commonly known as the ‘Antiquities Act of 1906’; 16 U.S.C. 431) is amended by striking: "in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation" and inserting "to declare, subject to approval by an Act of Congress".
The chances of HR 817 passing both the House and the Senate are probably slim, and the chances that President Obama would sign such a law are probably even slimmer.
I came across an article in the Pueblo Chieftain, written in 2010 when Scott Tipton was campaigning against the District 3 incumbent Rep. John Salazar. The article focused on the Mesa Verde Pottery company started by Mr. Tipton and his brother Joe, and it contains a quote I find interesting:
[Scott Tipton] credits his mother Pat and father Joe, who ran the construction business and also worked a ranch that now sits under McPhee Reservoir, for teaching him the value of a dollar.
"If you wanted to buy something you had to be able to earn enough to pay for it," he said.
In no sense of the word is the federal government a profit-making operation. The current managers of Chimney Rock — the U.S. Forest Service — have never been expected to “earn enough to pay for” the operations of the San Juan National Forest.
The basic question facing America in 2012 is, I believe, whether our federal government can continue expanding its operations when every new penny of expense creates an additional debt burden on our children. Most of us, in Archuleta County, are angry and frustrated by an ever-growing federal deficit. But when that increased federal debt might benefit the Archuleta County economy? In that case, we are fully behind it?
The archaeologists tell us the Ancient Puebloans lived in southwest Colorado between about 1 AD and 1300 AD, and then disappeared from the area. I wonder what happened. Did they simply sell their children’s future to the Chinese bankers, the way America seems willing to do in 2012 AD?
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