Energy trade group predicates park support on protections

Kelly Sloan
Kelly Sloan

Kelly Sloan, The Business Times

The West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association could withdraw its support for a proposal to change the Colorado National Monument into a national park if protections for the energy industry and economy are stripped from federal legislation at any stage of the process.

Susan Alvillar, president of WSCOGA, presented those comments during a public hearing on the designation in Grand Junction. “Creating a national park on the edge of Western Colorado’s only federally designated metropolitan city is a bold proposal with no similar precedent in our nation’s history,” Alvillar said in a prepared statement.

While acknowledging the WSCOGA board of directors approved a resolution last year supporting national park status, Alvillar said, “This support was granted so long as granular, specific community and economic protections were included in the bill creating the park.” While many members of the trade association continue to view the creation of a national park as “laudable,” others “have developed tremendous concern over the last few weeks about the proposal,” she said.

The statement refers to a letter from the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees that WSCOGA views as an opening salvo in an assault on the protections devised by a local working group formed to draft a proposed park bill. “Pressure to erode our community protections will likely increase as the proposal moves forward,” the statement reads, adding that those protections “are necessary due to a nearly century old history of antagonistic decisions and behaviors from the National Park Service towards our local community and economy.”

The statement asks U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall to commit to a mutual memorandum of understanding stipulating “that the bill be jointly withdrawn if colleagues in the House and or Senate successfully remove any of the protections.”

Udall said he’d continue to work with WSCOGA to draft legislation that addresses the group’s concerns. 

Tipton said if a national park designation hurts existing jobs and industries, he wouldn’t support the change.