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The Proposed Dolores River National Monument meets its Opposition in Naturita

By Valerie Maez


Don Coram and U.S Senator John Hickenlooper (D) Colorado





Largely due to the efforts of Sean Pond, Colorado Senator John Hickenlooper (D) held a “listening” event in Naturita, Colorado on Friday, April 26 2024 over local concerns that a National Monument advocated by a cartel of environmental groups on the Dolores River was an exceedingly bad idea. 

                                                                                                        Driving into town, "Halt The Dolores Monument" signs were everywhere. In a gymnasium with standing room only where about 400-500 attended, the opponents to the proposed monument drove home their point for the hour and a half that was dedicated to the event. Young elementary aged children holding signs with various reasons to oppose the Monument sat quietly in a half circle in front of the Senator on the gymnasium floor throughout the listening session.

Former State Senator Don Coram of Senate District 6, who as a registered Republican, openly advocated the election of Democrat  Adam Frisch  in Congressional District 3 after losing a primary contest with Lauren Boebert in the 2022 election, shared the podium with Senator Hickenlooper as the moderator. In his opening remarks Don Coram stated emphatically that all should be respectful. I would agree public comments while perhaps pointed, should be respectful.

 Senator Hickenlooper in his opening remarks, offered how he believed common ground could be found among all concerned with preserving one of the most beautiful areas in Colorado for future generations and thanked the assembled participants for taking out time from what he knew were busy lives to be present.


Mr. Pond was the first speaker and he used his two minutes to thank the Senator for coming and outlined that the Conservation Alliance had been planning to launch a Monument on the Dolores River without any collaboration from community stakeholders, miners, and ranchers. He noted that while the Conservation Alliance partnership treated Senator Bennet to a rafting expedition on the Dolores last year, no outreach to locals occurred, and when he asked how many of the audience was aware of the Monument proposal before he launched a petition drive on February 20, 2024   to halt the monument, very few raised hands.  Between on line and hand petitions Mr. Pond has garnered over 9,000 signatures to date.


 The Conservation Alliance announced in 2022 that their Priority Advocacy Agenda had four goals: Boundary Waters in Minnesota, the Dolores River in Colorado, Bristol Bay in Alaska, and the Castner Range in Texas. 


 According to their website the Alliance claims that since 1989, the organization and their partners awarded $31.9 million in grants, helped to protect 82 million acres and 4,570 river miles, remove or halted 38 dams, purchased 22 climbing areas, and designate five marine reserves.


 On January 26, 2023 Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland signed an order to withdraw 225,504 acres of public land from mineral leasing for 20 years, located adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota.


 A White House briefing release announced that on March 21, 2023 President Biden by Executive Order designated 6,672 acres of the Castner Range in west Texas and 506,000 acres in Avi Kwa Ame in Nevada as National Monuments.


On May 11, 2023  President Biden announced in a rambling Rose Garden speech protection for Bristol Bay by use of the Clean Water Act to ban any mine runoff within the Bristol Bay watershed. No economic cost of this action was established or that any mine was in fact, negatively impacting the waters of Bristol Bay that I was able to determine from an internet search. At the same press conference, President Biden announced he has directed the Secretary of Commerce to proceed to designate 770,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean southwest of Hawaii as a new national marine sanctuary. It should be pointed out that former President Barack Obama has built a compound on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai, complete with a seawall that oceanographers oppose as it interferes with tidal action that is an integral part of inter-tidal ecosystems.


So, the Dolores Monument is the final priority goal of a global environmental cabal that essentially removes public resources for their management.

Sean Pond and his wife Danielle of Nucla purchased the old Yellow Rock in Naturita in 2021, which according to The Norwood Post used to be owned by his aunt. Previously, Pond worked as a nuclear engineer in Slick Rock and Uravan. The Pond’s have re-purposed the former restaurant and bar into a recreational equipment renting business called Rimrocker Adventures.

All those who offered public comments on the Monument Proposal made interesting points that are worthy of serious consideration. One woman detailed that current infrastructure lacked the ability to logistically accommodate the increase traffic that such a designation would bring. Vehicles must travel a very isolated two lane highway and a head on crash closes the road. Medical staffing is limited in both Norwood and Naturita. Road conditions themselves bring motorists challenges of large wildlife migrations, impaired drivers, and of course, distracted driving.

Three geologists offered expert opinions as to the nature and the worth of the mineral deposits within the proposed monument. The abundant uranium deposits of the region are a critical element for both the energy sector and the national defense factor.

Several others spoke passionately how a Monument status only serves an outside population that is transitory in nature and that the local population are the good stewards of the land. Property owners have had to deal with trash and human defecation on their land by rafting enthusiasts. One elderly woman,  said she received a phone call concerning her and her neighbor’s water rights. The man implied he would be able to take them eventually. To his credit, Senator Hickenlooper told her that under no circumstances would anyone take away her water rights.

I hope that holds true for all of us who have water rights on the Dolores River.

There was a very interesting comment from one woman, who when she discovered that an organization that she is member of, had signed onto the proposed monument she was shocked. After contacting the organization’s local leaders to resign her membership she was informed they had not been consulted nor did they sign off as supporting the Monument proposal. Shortly after her public comment, the local representative of Dark Sky Initiatives spoke and stated clearly that Dark Sky Initiatives was opposed to the Monument as the increased travel and population factor would have serious detrimental aspects for their efforts.

David Raubeson of Montezuma County used the first part of his two minutes to public chide the fact that the meeting had not started with the Pledge of Allegiance, which is considered proper etiquette. People scrambled to their feet as he led the Pledge with heartfelt emotion. He used his remaining time to say that the locals are doing a great job of stewardship because it’s our home, and just leave us alone.

Sherry Simmons, also of Montezuma County, started her comment time with a devotional prayer for all and offered that those of us who live here have a vested interest in leaving the land for future generations.

Montrose County Commissioner Roger Rash asked Senator Hickenlooper why no one from his office contacted the BOCC for inclusion in these discussions. The Commissioner felt that money being allotted for any Monument could be better used elsewhere as the proposed Monument is neither wanted or needed.

Of the six Republican candidates running to represent  Colorado’s Congressional District 3 in Washington, two were present and both offered comments.

Ron Hanks, who has an extensive background in National Defense, stated his opposition to the Monument, as the uranium deposits are a valuable strategic asset and no good purpose would be served by closing off that avenue. He felt the issues on the border and energy development were of far greater concern.

Russ Andrews used his time to articulate all the failed policies of the Democrats that has led us to a dark future in a campaign speech rather than focusing on the issue confronting the folks in Naturita.

Mark Roeber, who is running for State House District 58 spoke that he felt that local consultation was a vital component in any proposal and that seemed to be lacking.  Larry Don Suckla, the other Republican candidate for HD58 was unable to attend due to a previous commitment but has been at all the previous public gatherings on the Monument proposal.


As we move forward, some individuals expressed concern that the proposed monument was already in the Oval Office, and the sentiments expressed at the meeting would be disregarded. In a phone interview, Sean Pond expressed that he took Senator Hickenlooper at his word, that he has not made up his mind about the Monument proposal. He also pointed out that to his knowledge supporters of the Monument submitted their plan last Tuesday with assistance from Senator Bennet, but that the planning process the government uses to determine the eligibility is different. It is far from over as there are two different approaches to designating a Monument on the Federal level.


It should be noted that Senator Hickenlooper also held a listening session on Saturday in Grand Junction. There was about  200-250 people who attended that meeting with about a 50-50 split between supporters and opponents. Supporters of the Monument arrived early and lined up at all three microphone podiums in an effort to front load the public comment period. That did not escape Senator Hickenlooper’s attention. The line was adjusted to allow opponents to have the opportunity to speak.


One of the more disappointing aspects to Senator Hickenlooper’s listening session was the notable absence of our elected Colorado leadership. The proposed Dolores River Monument is a big deal and our elected leadership should have been supportive and represent the folks who they are paid to represent. Where were you guys?


Time will tell whether the process was legitimate, but time can also change policy decisions. The arrogance and tactics displayed by The Conservation Alliance and their partners are increasingly being viewed as suspect. President Obama campaigned and won office on the premise of Hope and Change. Those ideals, as currently practiced by the environmental cartel are beginning to look more like Hoax and Corruption.

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Great article Valerie. I think we have enough national monuments. Why do we need more. The only reason I can think of is just what Valerie said. They want to take over our land. They don't want us to be able to fend for ourselves. Want us to have to buy everything from a store, rely on them to provide for us and say what we can and cannot do and use. (Example, electric cars,but not enough charging stations, and huge expense. Electric only for cooking, and heating. Overloaded grids. Chinese are buying a bunch of our land. We are overrun by illegals that they use our tax dollars to provide for. Free credit cards. They are a sure vote…

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It shouldbe noted that the large law enforcement presence speaks for itself. If it was a great thing for the community there would be no need. There are currently 28 national monument proposals.

They are squeezing us out of our land.

#halt theDolores monument!

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