Citizens for a Better Grand Junction on July 2 submitted petitions containing hundreds of names to House Representative Scott Tipton and Senator Michael Bennet asking them to introduce legislation to revert “McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area” back to its original name, “Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area.”
The petitions cite many reasons for reverting the name: The 2004 change to “McInnis Canyons” was not sought by anyone in Colorado. Rather, legislation to change the name was introduced by Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, and the only other sponsor was Rep. Richard Pombo of California. The bill was introduced and passed without input or discussion from Coloradans, and, even more egregiously, without any input from members of the committee who worked long and hard to make the area into a National Conservation Area. The name change also violated House Rule XXI, Clause 6 (pdf, at page 35), which specifically prohibits members of Congress from naming public works or lands after themselves. This rule was put in place to eliminate corruption and back-room deals involving stoking Congress members’ egos by naming public works after themselves.
The petition also cites how former Rep. McInnis’ reputation was tarnished in 2010 by charges that he plagiarized essays he was hired to write about water law for a nonprofit foundation. The scandal forced him to quit the race for Colorado governor, apologize to the public and refund the $300,000 the Hasan Foundation had paid him to write the essays. McInnis was further charged with plagiarizing a 1994 column he wrote for the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News. McInnis admitted in both cases that he had relied upon others for materials rather than creating them himself. A congressman thus tainted is undeserving of having anything named after him, the signers say.
Moreover, renaming a national conservation area after a human being breaks with longstanding U.S. tradition. National conservations areas have never been named after people, but only after the geographic features they contain that make them significant.
“For all of these reasons,” the petition states, “we urge our current federal officials to revert McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area back to its original name, ‘Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area.’ Doing so will right a wrong done to our state’s citizens without our knowledge, restore our state’s integrity and assure the conservation area’s name confers honors not just on one individual, but on the entire beautiful state of Colorado.”