Mongols tour monument for park management tips

By GARY HARMON/The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

In looking to set aside parts of their country in settings similar to those managed by the national park system in the United States, a delegation from Mongolia stopped first at Colorado National Monument.

Seven men from Mongolia’s Ministry of the Environment trekked through fresh snow Monday morning to see Monument Canyon. The delegation then sat down with monument Superintendent Joan Anzelmo to learn about the way the National Park Service operates.

It wasn’t by happenstance that the delegation began its survey of national parks in Colorado.

“There are some real environmental similarities” between Colorado and Mongolia, said David Gann of the Montrose office of The Nature Conservancy.

The conservancy also maintains an office in Mongolia and offered to help when the government began looking at ways to put about 30 percent of the country in national parks, refuges or other status, Gann said.

Mongolia is mountainous, with its highest peak reaching 14,350 feet. Much of the country is grassland plains, and the Gobi Desert stretches across the country’s southern region.

The delegation is hoping to start a more extensive partnership with the National Park Service and have employees from the United States help them with their planning initiatives in Mongolia, Anzelmo said.

“We’re here to protect the incredible geology,” Anzelmo told the delegation through an interpreter, explaining the park’s mission. Likewise, the monument also was set aside for the protection of wildlife and archaeological and cultural resources, she said.

Delegates were interested in the nuts and bolts of park management, such as whether the monument dealt with “tourist camps.”

The monument’s small size and its proximity to Grand Junction means it doesn’t offer large-scale camping, although the monument does maintain smaller campgrounds, Anzelmo explained.

Concessionaires that operate on national parks “have to excel in your building and in your environmental practices,” Anzelmo said.

Along with maintaining the park lands, park service employees throughout the system also have to keep an eye on visitors, Anzelmo said, noting, for instance, employees are trained to pick up signals that visitors might be suicidal.

The delegation also will visit Mesa Verde and Great Sand Dunes national parks before returning to Mongolia, Gann said.

The monument, like other park service sites, also relies heavily on volunteers and the efforts of associations that raise money, Anzelmo said.

Entrance fees are deliberately kept low, she told the delegation, because “we don’t want to be expensive. National parks are like a birthright to Americans.” (Grand Junction Daily Sentinel newspaper of Colorado)


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