Enviro groups campaign for monument expansion | CraigDailyPress.com
Tyler Baskfield

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Enviro groups campaign for monument expansion

The National Wildlife Federation and the other environmental organizations that developed a proposal for the Vermillion National Monument have started a marketing campaign to drum up support for the proposal.

A four-page brochure, which asks people to show their support for the monument expansion, was sent to the households on the mailing lists of 11 of the organizations who participated on the expansion proposal. Those include the Sierra Club, the Colorado Environmental Coalition and the Wildlands Center for Preventing Roads, said Katherine Johnson, regional director of the National Wildlife Federation.

Johnson said she didn’t know how many copies of the brochure were mailed out, or if the copies would stay in Colorado or be sent nation-wide.

“Mainly we wanted people to know that there is a very special area and a proposal for it in Northwest Colorado,” Johnson said.

Local officials object to the brochure because they believe it doesn’t mention the public opposition to the proposal.

Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos has seen the brochure, and said it is full of half-truths.

“They are just shoving it down everybody’s throats,” said Raftopoulos. “They aren’t telling the whole story and that’s their typical mode of operation.”

The cover of the brochure has a Steve Torbit photo the Vermillion area. A statement below the picture reads, “Now’s your chance to protect this special area of Colorado.”

Inside is an explanation of why the groups responsible for the proposal believe the area should be designated a monument. They call the Vermillion National Monument “A tribute to the West.”

The Vermillion Basin area is described as “largely unchanged, the same as it was when the Ute Indians’ ancestors first hunted and lodged here.”

The brochure also states the area is in jeopardy.

“Tragically, even this remote place is beginning to feel the pressures of mechanized recreation, of exploration for dwindling energy supplies and of range agriculture pushing the limits of nature’s balance. These are pressures that will grow quickly and change this landscape forever.”

The last page of the brochure lists a series of bullets that state what effect the monument would have on the landscape.

n The land would continue to be managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

n Private landowners with land in the National Monument would retain all rights to their land. The federal government could purchase these lands only if the seller was willing.

n The land would remain open for hunting and fishing, and wildlife would continue to be managed by the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

n Livestock grazing could continue on these lands.

n No new roads would be built in the area, and the BLM would be directed to close existing routes found to damage land or water resources, conflict with wildlife management, interfere with maintenance of wildlife habitat or are determined to be inconsistent with the area’s overriding managerial purpose.

n Off-road vehicle use would be restricted from ecologically and culturally sensitive areas, and limited to suitable designated routes that will result in the least possible impact on the environment or impairment to other legitimate uses of public properties.

n Future mining, geothermal and oil and gas development would be prohibited, although existing leases would be honored.

n Additionally, if the area is designated as a national monument, the BLM would likely receive increased resources for managing this unique landscape and its cultural resources.

People are urged to help with the monument designation by cutting out a card addressed to Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt that states:

“I support the citizen-proposed Vermillion National Monument, which includes the land located in and around the Vermillion Basin in Northwest Colorado. I urge you to recognize and protect the area’s scientific and historic values by recommending these approximately 280,000 acres of land as Colorado’s newest National Monument.”

Johnson said objections to the proposal weren’t included because the National Wildlife Federation’s purpose was to explain the need for the monument and demonstrate what their organizations believed was an important project.

“Our goal was to inform members of the groups about the project,” Johnson said.

Raftopoulos said the brochure is a typical example of the National Wildlife Federation’s tactics to get the Vermillion monument designated.

“It is promoting and marketing an area,” Raftopoulos said. “That is not promoting a balance or the process that we need to take. I think it tells us what their motives have always been and that is to take over the land.”