A new national monument in the works for Colorado?

Last month, a Department of the Interior memo leaked and broke the story that the Obama administration was considering establishing 14 national monuments in nine western states, including the Vermillion Basin in far northwestern Colorado.

Republicans and property-rights hardliners have since been lashing out at the idea, denouncing the Clinton administration's last-second establishment of Escalante, Canyon of the Ancients, Giant Sequoia, and other national monuments a decade ago as an abject, job-killing, energy-cost-inflating failure.

On the other side of the issue, environmentalists are predictably keen to the idea, because the Vermillion Basin, a high desert rich with sagebrush, petroglyphs and sage grouse, has been an apple of the oil-and-gas industry's eye for quite some time.

Here's a list of the 14 proposed monuments, which also include Utah's San Rafael Swell and the Otero Mesa in New Mexico. And here's a story from the Craig Daily Press detailing some of the local antipathy for the idea.

From the latter:

"I'm pretty upset over this," Moffat County commissioner Tom Mathers said. "You've got someone in upper government saying 'this is what we think we need' without consulting the people that it affects. It's wrong and not democratic."

In the letter, the commission states that a Vermillion Basin National Monument "would mean lost jobs, lost hunting opportunities, a taking of property rights, and most importantly ignoring local planning processes, expertise and participation."

Of course, any jobs lost to a monument designation would not have lasted very long anyway -- natural-gas wells pretty much run themselves after the hole is in the ground. And their emissions are not too good for the views.

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Eric Peterson