Letter to the Editor: Opinion Piece on NHA

Letters to the Editor (5)Citizens of Bent, Crowley, Otero, Baca, Kiowa, Prowers and Las Animas Counties

Wake Up O Sleeper, the government is knocking on your door!

This letter concerns the current proposal by the National Park Service (NPS) and Canyons & Plains Of Southeast Colorado aka the Southeast Colorado Regional Heritage Task Force  to create a National Heritage Area (NHA)  encompassing the land in all of your counties.

I own land in Bent County.  My Grandparents were cattle ranchers who poured their blood, sweat and tears into their land.  They left the land as a pristine legacy to me and my other family members.  We love this land and I intend to leave it in the same condition to my children and grandchildren.  I do not need or want the National Park Service (NPS) or any special interest group to have any say into what I or my children do with our land and I don’t think you do either.

There are a few environmental/conservation special interest groups who want to control these lands if they can.  They are using our NPS to do it; and the NPS is using special interest groups to promote the “nice” idea of government in partnership with property/ business owners and local government.  The end result of this is a few dictating to the many what they can and can’t do with their property.

It is our responsibility to stop this NHA in Southeast Colorado at the local level.  If it gets past the local county commissioner level it is too late. The feasibility study for this NHA is currently underway.  The study will be submitted to Congress for designation of the NHA when it is finished.  The feasibility study must show public support.  You, citizens, must make your opinion known to Canyons & Plains, your county commissioners, your senators and representatives now.

I spent 25 years working for the Colorado Attorney General’s office as a Criminal Investigator.  The last five years I investigated environmental crimes.  I have a passion for our environment but I also have common sense and I love freedom.  My experience has shown that the government will never shrink.  It always expands and takes on a life of its own with its own agendas. We citizens need to keep the government in check and within its constitutional boundaries.  The other bothersome issue is that most of the people who now have property in a NHA do not even know about it.  The only way you find out about it before it is designated is if you happen to see or hear of one of the informational meeting they hold.  Why aren’t property owners notified via mail about something so significant to them?

The NPS currently controls approximately 84 million acres of land; 4.5 million acres of coastal waters, lakes and reservoirs; and more than 85,000 miles of rivers and streams. Nationwide there are 49 NHA’s that have influence over much more of America.  In Colorado since 2009 three (3) NHAs have been designated.  They are: the Sangre De Cristo NHA encompassing 3000 square miles; The South Park NHA encompassing nearly a million acres of grasslands and 45 miles of streams; and Cache La Poudre NHA encompassing nearly 35,000 acres of flood plain and 45 miles of river.  Why does the government want to control all this land?   Designation of a NHA will effectively bring federal zoning by using federal money and private grant money to influence local governments and influential people in the area.  They also find and use special interest groups some of which have large budgets and ideologies that are compatible with theirs.

Areas designated as NHA’s would be under the authority of the National Park Service and under the management of an un-elected management group chosen by them.

Canyons & Plains will tell you that a NHA

$          is not a unit of the NPS

$          is not managed by the NPS

$          it does not place restrictions on land management

Yet, NPS director Jonathan Jarvis states that he affirms NPS’s support for the NHA program, and encourages NPS managers to help the NHAs succeed. He believes the NHAs strengthen and complement the NPS system. He encourages NPS staff to participate and assist to the “maximum extent practicable” NHA initiatives.  He wants the NHAs to be fully integrated as part of the National Park Service Family. (See Policy Memorandum 12-01; United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service). Director Jarvis also states that he supports “Advancing the National Park Idea” which promotes “new kinds of parks, including lived-in landscapes”….He states that NHAs fit well within a large landscape scale preservation and conservation framework. Recognizing them as long-term assets to the national park system.”

One of the current Colorado NHA management plans recommends:

$          an inventory of the resources located in the core area and any other property in the core area that should be preserved, restored, managed or maintained

$          policies and strategies for resource management that detail the application of appropriate land and water management techniques…develop intergovernmental and interagency cooperation agreements to protect the resources

$          Update land use codes to include provisions that protect historic properties and scenic views

Behind all this effort by NPS and their private special interest partners is the theory that big government is the only entity with the wisdom and vision to decide how land and resources should be utilized (or not).  This goal is hidden within their statements of what they hope to achieve with the NHA’s, but is able to be discerned by reading their published materials.

This scares me!  How about you?  Once a NHA is designated with your land included – you will not be able to opt out.  Canyons & Plains assures you that you can, but how does one opt out of a view-scape?  Or a zoning regulation promoted by the NHA?

I object as a taxpayer (each NHA receives at least $1 million in Federal money per year) and as a private property owner.

Vicky Barber, Bent County Property Owner

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