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Revert "McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area" back to its original name, "Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area"

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In 2005, Congress quietly renamed the 122,000-acre Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area on the western slope after then-sitting Congressman Scott McInnis, without soliciting input from Colorado citizens, and without giving them any notice. 

The renaming was inappropriate and should not have taken place.

It is audacious for sitting members of Congress to rename public lands after themselves. It should be honor enough for a Congress member to serve their fellow citizens in the House of Representatives. Not only that, but it was against House Rules to do it. House Rule XXI, Clause 6 specifically prohibits members of Congress from naming public works after themselves. To rename Colorado Canyons after Scott McInnis, House leadership suspended the rule so no other members of Congress could object.

Even worse, Rep. McInnis is a completely inappropriate figure to merit having federal lands named after him. 

In 2010, Rep. McInnis' reputation was tarnished by charges that he plagiarized essays that 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 that in both cases he had relied upon others for materials rather than creating them himself. A congressman thus tainted does not derserve to have federal lands named after him.

Renaming the area after a human being also breaks with long-standing U.S. tradition. To this day, the "McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area" is the only national conservation area named after a person rather than a geographic feature. 

Furthermore, the idea to rename the area after Rep. McInnis did not arise from Coloradans. Legislation to rename the area was introduced by Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, and the only other sponsor was Rep. Richard Pombo of California. Neither of these representatives were from Colorado's congressional delegation. Neither congressman solicited any input about the change from Colorado citizens, nor did they seek any input from the people who spent many years working to turn the lands into a conservation area. 

Moreoever, naming federal lands after sitting members of Congress is a corrupting practice. By circumventing public input, representatives can confer such honors upon each other in exchange for political favors, like voting a certain way on pending legislation. It is simply a bad practice, and we do not want it linked to our state.

For all of these reasons, 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. 

References:

Hasan Foundation demands full repayment from McInnis for plagiarized articles, July 16, 2010 Ernest Luning, The Colorado Statesman 

Canyons Area Name Changes: Some object to honoring sitting lawmakers - December 30, 2004, Nancy Lofholm, The Denver Post and Casper (Wyoming) Star Tribune 

Congressman Tom Tancredo urges rules of Congress be changed to prevent congressmen from naming federal properties after themselves.

Researcher: McInnis lying about plagiarism: Rolly Fischer won't sign a letter from the campaign taking fault, July 15, 2010, Steven K. Paulson, Associated Press

H.R.4827 (2004) - (Bill Summary, text, and sponsors) "To amend the Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area and Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness Act of 2000 to rename the Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area as the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area." 108th Congress (2003-2004)

 



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