7 April 2010: Preservationists v. Development7 April 2010: Preservationists v. Development

It’s preservationists vs. development

One of my favorite places, Chaco Canyon, is in a high, stark and sparse desert, hostile to life except for the most arduous. Chaco is a national park dedicated to preserving the heritage of its ancient sites. Visitors pay $8 entry and $10 camping fees; otherwise, Chaco is an economic dead zone.

There is a movement afoot that would make the county another economic Chaco. The Cultural Resources Management Plan Steering Committee, code for historic preservation, seems intent on halting economic growth generally and wind-energy development specifically.

The Clear Creek Watershed Foundation’s letter in the Courant last week raised awareness and concerns about the direction of the CRM project. By the time you are reading this, the CRM group will have likely made its pitch to the Board of Commissioners, which comes down to this: a land grab that, if approved by the board, would effectively derail development on much of the little land left in Clear Creek County, unless it’s a quaint B&B listed on the National Register.

While the watershed foundation and others raise important policy questions, what intrigues me is the group itself and how quickly it has gotten to where it is. The steering committee lists solely Clear Creek “residents and property owners,” save one in Grand County, and the project explanation maintains, “The project is guided by county staff.” By September 2009, we would find that not to be the case with two outsiders, David Cushman and Lynne Sebastian of SRI, coming on board.

The SRI Foundation found its roots in Statistical Research, Inc., “a for-profit cultural resource management firm headquartered in Redlands, Calif.” With “the cultural resource management (CRM) field grow[ing] into a mature discipline,” and the need for “assisting agencies and private companies to comply with federal and state historic preservation laws and regulations,” Statistical Research Inc. begat SRI Foundation.

Cushman is its “program manager, historic preservation programs” and Sebastian, “volunteer services coordinator and webmaster, passport in time clearinghouse.”

Since that meeting, Cushman has been the effective chair, orchestrating the discussions and leading it to its conclusions, which in turn leads to essential questions: Why SRI? How did SRI come into the picture? Who is making it happen? Since SRI is based in Rio Rancho, N.M., near Albuquerque, making commuting a bit of chore, perhaps we should follow the money.

While places such as Chaco might be economic dead zones, there is, nonetheless, money to be made. It’s just that competition needs to be quashed. Re-title historic preservation to cultural resources management, and you can engineer a land grab, nice and legal, that puts off limits further development, including wind and solar energy as well as mining!

The meetings’ notes offer evidence:

Sept. 29: “Cushman offers this summary: ‘You are looking for a way to identify the important places that are under the jurisdiction of the county as well as a mechanism for preserving them.’

“The members of the steering committee agreed on this. Cushman noted therefore that there is basic agreement between SRIF project goals and the committee needs.”

With the marriage consummated, Cushman thanked “the county and the State Historical Fund for making this project possible.”

The Feb. 2 meeting focused on “Task 3 Threat Assessments.”

“Mr. Cushman then turned to the subject of the meeting, evaluating potential threats to cultural resources. … Mr. Cushman then directed the committee’s attention to the four threat categories: wind target areas, recreation, slopes 30 percent or greater, and above tree line elevation.” Cushman said, “These areas should be identified as ‘red flags’” and tasked members to identify such.

“Mr. Cushman working with the steering committee suggested the following lists of threats: natural; industrial — wind, solar and mining; recreation; present zoning; and transportation.”

Mining? The very thing the legacy of which they are ostensibly trying to protect is now amazingly a threat to itself. That is the same logic as saying we need to drive humans into extinction because our continued existence is a threat to our history.

On Feb. 25, Cushman “led the group through the planning exercise to identify historic preservation goals.” The group then concluded the public needs to be “educated” since there is “a lack of countywide constituency for historical preservation” and “the political will to address the historical preservation needs of the county.”

Get it? The problem with you is that you don’t understand what you need!

It’s no secret historical preservationists are adamantly opposed to development of a wind farm above Georgetown. Since they seem to be losing the argument on its merits, upon which the project should either stand or fall, they have brazenly taken it to higher heights, not only hoping to decapitate the project but also any development that offends their visual sensibilities, even if it means dirtier air and higher energy costs for everyone else. That is the definition of self-centeredness, arrogance, and chutzpah, which seem to be cultural resources in abundance in Clear Creek.

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