|Top Park Service officials taking a look at Black
MONTROSE, Colo. (AP) _ Top officials with the National Park Service are considering whether to pursue a lawsuit seeking a conservation easement on private land in the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park.
The federal lawsuit was filed in Denver last summer after the land's owners, development company TDX, threatened to put homes or commercial development on the highly visible property.
The Park Service offered to buy the 112-acre tract, but negotiations collapsed.
At issue is whether the Park Service should be following a 1984 law, which allows for condemnations within national park boundaries, or 1999 legislation that changed the Black Canyon from a monument to a park and forbids taking land within the park without an owner's consent.
Park Superintendent Sheridan Steele has said the property owned by TDX was included within the national monument's boundaries in the 1984 law. He said the 1999 act ``clearly talks about additions made to the park in 1999.''
U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo., who sponsored the 1999 legislation along with U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., disagrees. McInnis prompted the review of the lawsuit by writing to National Park Service Director Robert Stanton denouncing it.
McInnis first wrote to Steele, who he worked closely with to gain park status for the canyon, and wrote to Stanton when Steele did not reply, said Josh Penry, McInnis' spokesman.
Although McInnis has sharply criticized TDX in the past, ``the law is the law, and the Park Service has no business pursuing this condemnation suit,'' he wrote to Stanton.
TDX has skirmished with federal land management agencies in the past for proposing developments in other sensitive Colorado locations. The company is being represented by real estate agent Tom Chapman, who has a history of planning developments on private land surrounded by public land.
Chapman has won high payments or profitable land trades in some of those cases.