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Colorado Gains New National Park

October 21, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ America gained its first new national park in five years Thursday as President Clinton signed a bill creating the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado.

The centerpiece of the 30,000-acre park is a narrow canyon up to 2,900 feet deep and only 40 feet wide at its narrowest point. It is called the Black Canyon because sunlight reaches the canyon floor for only about an hour a day, said Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., a prime park proponent.

The canyon, about 250 miles southwest of Denver, became a national monument in 1933. It is renown for trout fishing in the Gunnison River, rock climbing on the sheer canyon walls and hiking in surrounding areas.

Clinton, in a statement, said it was ``a true national treasure.″

``This bipartisan bill demonstrates once again that preserving our environment for future generations is a cause that transcends party lines,″ Clinton said.

Black Canyon is the first new national park since the creation in 1994 of the Joshua Tree and Death Valley parks in California.

Western Colorado residents first began pitching the idea of a national park for the Black Canyon in the 1980s as a way to boost the number of tourists to the canyon, which currently gets about 230,000 visitors a year.

The campaign stalled over questions such as which federal agency should manage the park, whether the area was large and diverse enough to be a park and whether it would harm local property or water rights.

The new law includes an implied right for all the water needed to serve the park’s purposes, with an agreement that any disputes over water for the park would be decided under Colorado law, not federal law.

The plan Clinton signed allows the Bureau of Land Management to oversee part of the park, with the rest managed by the National Park Service. Of the 7,000 acres being added to the former national monument, 4,400 will be managed by the bureau as wilderness.

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