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Intermountain Region Listening Sessions


    The listening session parade continues, and in the Park Service's Intermountain Region it's a big one, albeit one with some odd gaps.
    As you scan these listings, does it make you wonder why most of the sessions are scheduled between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., when most folks are eating dinner?
    Anyway, here's the latest lineup for additional meetings in the Rockies and Southwest:
    * March 20, 7 p.m.-9 p.m., San Antonio at the City Council Chambers with Mary taking notes along with Steve Whitesell, superintendent of San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, who's been detailed to oversee the centennial campaign.
    * March 21, 5 p.m.-7 p.m., Durango, Colorado, at the Lyceum at the Center for Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College.
    * March 21, 5 p.m.-7 p.m., Grand Junction, Colorado, at the Doubletree Hotel.
    * March 27, 5 p.m.-7 p.m., Albuquerque, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.
    * March 27th, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., Carlsbad, New Mexico, at the Carlsbad Public Library Annex.
    * March 27, 5 p.m.-7:30 p.m., Torrington, Wyoming, at Eastern Wyoming College.
    * March 28, 5 p.m.-7 p.m., Tucson, Arizona, at the Western Archaeological and Conservation Center.
    * March 29, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., St. George, Utah, at the Dixie Center.
    * March 29, 6 p.m.-8 p.m., Alamosa, Colorado, at Adams State College in the Student Union Building.
    * April 1, 7 p.m.-9 p.m., Helena, Montana, at the Red Lion Colonial Inn.
    * April 2, 5 p.m.-7 p.m., Flagstaff, at the Museum of Northern Arizona in the Branigar/Chase Discovery Center Auditorium.

    Now, the oddities:
    Why two meetings in southwestern Colorado, which has two national parks and a collection of national monuments, and only one meeting in Utah (which has five national parks and a collection of national monuments and an NRA) and that meeting is in the extreme southwestern corner?
    And why is there a meeting in Torrington, Wyoming, which can rightly claim Fort Laramie National Historic Site and is close to Scotts Bluff National Monument and Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, but not one in Jackson, the gateway to both Grand Teton and Yellowstone? Heck, with the number of billionaires and millionaires living in Jackson, you'd think the Park Service would definitely want to court that crowd.
    I've been told, however, that logistics played a huge role in deciding whether to hold these meetings. And that's certainly understandable. In the short, two-week window of opportunity the Park Service can't be everywhere.
    But why no meetings in Utah other than St. George? I couldn't get an answer to that question.
    Why the meeting in Torrington (this meeting originally was supposed to be in Cody but was relocated) and not Jackson? I'm told the Park Service thinking is that Yellowstone and Grand Teton already have large advocacy bases and friends groups that do a good job of raising money for those parks. Fort Laramie, on the other hand, isn't even on the radar scope, and so hopefully staging a listening session in Torrington will help. I'm not sure what the sugar beet farmers will think of it, though.
    There's much to be learned from these listening sessions, both for the general public and for the Park Service. As I've pointed out previously, the agency did a poor job of listening during last year's Management Policies review, and it seemed to care even less what the public thinks regarding snowmobiles in Yellowstone.
    Now, some will argue that the public comment collected for the snowmobiles studies did not constitute a vote but rather was amassed as part of the NEPA process, and that's true. However, there's plenty of science to support the people's wishes that snowmobiles be removed from the park.
    How will the public's comments during these listening sessions be used? That's something we'll have to wait and see.

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