A Colorado Resident Is Fighting the Expansion of a New National Monument in His Backyard

By: Stephanie Bontorin | Published: May 09, 2024

A man in Nucla, Colorado, is fighting a new push from Joe Biden to establish nearly 400,000 acres of canyonland as a new national monument.

The area surrounds the Dolores River, a tributary of the Colorado River, and passes through Utah and Colorado.

Biden Plans To Use the Antiquities Act To Designate the Land

Sean Pond is a resident in Colorado trying to oppose the new national monument planned around his home in Nucla.

Joe Biden speaks at a campaign rally.

Source: Michael Stokes/Wikimedia

He became a vocal opponent after learning about the new plans to establish more federally protected land. He discovered that Biden plans to use the Antiquities Act of 1906, which gives presidents untamed power to protect federal lands with natural, cultural, and scientific value.

Some Residents View Federal Monuments as a Land Grab

Many see the president’s reorganization of land around the country as a federal land grab to prevent certain areas from being developed.

A small red oil drill working on dry land in front of a large mountain range

Source: John Hill/Wikipedia Commons

Once a piece of land is designated a federal monument, ranching, oil pumping, and mining are restricted to a degree. 

The Protect The Dolores Project

A group of environmentalists who want to expand federally protected land has proposed designating the Dolores River as a national monument.

A long river moves through a valley between tall red rocks and dry brush

Source: Coasterlover1994/Wikipedia Commons

The plan is not necessarily being pushed by President Biden but does have his unwavering support.

The 30x30 Plan Is Scaring Some Residents

The Dolores Project is part of a bigger goal to conserve 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030. The project is known as 30×30 and has many bi-partisan supporters.

Three large geological formations sit inside a wide valley of red rocks

Source: Cayetano Gil/Unsplash

However, Sean and many others see it as a global scheme to control land and remove individual rights. He claims that the government wants to “stop oil and gas, stop mining, stop offshore drilling – in the name of climate change.”

National Monuments Have Become a Hot Topic

In recent years, the idea of national monuments has become a political divide in the country.

A large arch formation stands on the side of a cliff with hikers walking below

Source: Joshua Sukoff/Unsplash

During Donald J. Trump’s presidency, he dismantled two protected sites in Utah. Since then, Biden has used the Antiquities Act to re-establish and expand several monuments.


The Dolores River Has Been a Protected Site Since 1970

Conservation advocates have been fighting to protect the water and land around the Dolores River for close to 50 years.

A long road placed inside a valley and over top of a small river within dry brush

Source: Jeffrey Beall/Wikipedia Commons

It was first identified under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act as an area suitable for federal protection for future generations.


The Public Supports Protecting the Dolores

With more than 100,000 signatures on a petition delivered to the White House, members of the public have been outspoken about their support.

A woman wearing flower earrings and a grey coat stands at a podium in front of a large white building with Greek columns

Source: Paul Morigi/Getty Images

Grand Junction Mayor Anna Stout handed the petition to Washington. At a press conference, she stated her unwavering support of protecting natural beauty in her state.


Proponents Say Not Much Would Change on the River

The team behind the Dolores River project says that not much would change for public access. The area would still be accessible along the many popular trails for hikers, mountain bikers, and backpackers.

A river winds through the basin of a valley surrounded by large mountains full of green trees and red rocks

Source: @SenatorBennet/X

The project intends to restore degraded habitats and develop better recreational infrastructure, benefiting tourists and locals.


Opposition Faced in the Area

Surprisingly, the most outspoken opponents of the projects are the residents who live closest to the river.

A close up view of rushing water in a river next to tall mountains of red rock

Source: @SenatorBennet/X

They say that they have been lied to and that the environmentalists want to push their values on residents in the area.


Residents Feel Overlooked in the Process

One of their biggest gripes with the Biden government is that they feel they have no voice.

A road winds through a mountain in a wide valley with low clouds, red rock, and dry brush

Source: @danhillenbrand/X

They feel that their income and their way of life could be extinguished if the area were to become federally protected. Becoming federally protected land may also halt hunting in the area and cessation of mining activities.


Halt the Dolores Monument Is Gaining Traction

Sean has named his group the “Halt the Dolores Monument.” To date, the group has gained more than 7,500 signatures and has raised money towards his cause.

An aerial view of a three prong river between tall mountains

Source: @CO_wildlands/X

He also has plans to travel to Washington, D.C to have the Antiquities Act removed from law.