U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton has told the people of Mesa County that the community should be the driving force behind efforts to upgrade Colorado National Monument to national park status. Implicit in that advice is the idea that if the community cant get behind the change, it wont happen, and right now, the community is divided.
According to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, supporters of the reclassification believe the higher profile of a national park would bring more visitation and more tourism income. The monument offers desert hiking and biking opportunities in a beautiful canyon landscape, and although some consider it less hospitable than Canyons of the Ancients, Grand Junction offers far more amenities to visitors.
Opponents are afraid it would also bring stricter environmental regulations that might restrict local business and industry. The geography of the Grand Valley tends to trap air pollution, which casts a highly visible pall over the area, perhaps deterring visitors and certainly affecting the health of residents. Energy development contributes significantly to both the economy and the pollution problem, and the business leaders of Northwest Colorado dont want new regulations that will discourage future drilling.
Neither side is wrong; they just weigh the factors differently.
Meanwhile, Pueblo County is considering a proposal to build a nuclear power plant there. (The regulatory approval process is extremely long and this is a very preliminary step, so opponents shouldnt panic just yet.) In the pro column are electricity and jobs, at a time when both are needed. On the other side looms the specter of Japans ongoing nuclear disaster, with contamination growing ever broader and ever more serious.
Again, neither side is wrong; jobs and power are essential, and some prices are too high to pay for them.
As political positions in this country have become increasingly polarized, one of the skills that has waned markedly is the ability to balance competing interests. Instead of seeking common ground from which to begin to craft a solution, they hurl accusations across the gap.
One supporter of the Pueblo nuclear plant told AP, People are afraid of what they dont know. That may be not many people have a full understanding of nuclear power generation but they do know that what has happened in Japan is not acceptable. And when an area rancher worries that no one will want to buy locally grown vegetables, he is pointing out that fear of the unknown is a very real market force. Hes not dumb; he values his own livelihood.
Whether its possible to build a nuclear plant with sufficient safeguards to make its Pueblo neighbors feel comfortable about living nearby is a question for two different groups: scientists and those neighbors. Adding in an emotional appeal for jobs does not clarify that particular issue. Employment figures are a matter for a discussion about the best ways to keep Coloradans employed, not a wild card to be played against environmentalists in every discussion.
There are a lot of competing interests here, a Pueblo County commissioner told AP. All of that is background for making a very local decision. Absolutely, except that not in my backyard can be a way of refusing to deal locally with a global issue.
In the Grand Valley, the ideal solution would be for locals to find a way to have robust energy and tourism energies while strictly controlling the pollution they generate, but of course Mesa County (like Montezuma County) doesnt have the final say in air quality, which is no respecter of political boundaries. And nobody wants to budge an inch.
All politics is local, because people care most about what affects them directly. But if they cant talk about it calmly, using verifiable data, its very difficult for anyone to see beyond his own self interests to a solution that offers something for everyone.