Arkansas River, Colorado - U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet urged the president today
to engage with the people of Chaffee County, community leaders and stakeholders throughout
Colorado, by beginning a public and transparent process to consider designating Browns
Canyon as a national monument through the Antiquities Act. The senators' letter
echoes the local sentiment that a national monument designation — protecting 22,000 acres
along the Arkansas River between Salida and Buena Vista — would boost the statewide
economy, safeguard Gold Medal trout waters and wildlife habitat, and help protect
Colorado’s special way of life.
Udall and Bennet cited the long-term, bipartisan support for protecting Browns Canyon, including the effort nearly a decade ago by the state's entire congressional delegation, led by then-Congressman Joel Hefley of Colorado Springs. They also noted Udall's more than 18-month public outreach process to develop the most recent bill to protect Browns Canyon as a national monument.
"While we remain committed to the legislative process, the gridlock in Congress has stymied this proposal and many others. We feel the future economic benefits of a national monument designation are significant for the region, and we should not allow Congressional gridlock to deprive Colorado of those benefits," Udall and Bennet wrote in the letter. "Therefore, we believe it is necessary to begin discussing the possibility of a national monument designation under the Antiquities Act. As part of this process, we hope that administration officials can visit Chaffee County to hear directly from Coloradans about the future of Browns Canyon and its value to their community."
A broad coalition of community leaders, Colorado businesses, sportsmen and conservationists supports protecting Browns Canyon as a national monument.
"I take tourists and residents whitewater rafting and fishing through Browns Canyon, exposing them to the natural beauty that is at the heart of Colorado's outdoor heritage," said Joe Greiner, owner of Wilderness Aware Rafting in Buena Vista. "A lot of people put national monuments on their bucket list. A national monument designation will put Browns Canyon on the map and have an even bigger impact on our local economy."
"Browns Canyon is located near several U.S. military bases, including Fort Carson and the U.S. Air Force Academy. Its protection as a national monument would ensure that service members and veterans could have access to the outdoors, can heal from the trauma of war, and reconnect with family," said Garrett Reppenhagen from the Vet Voice Foundation. "This is why Vet Voice Foundation strongly supports President Obama using his authority to make this protection a reality through use of the Antiquities Act."
"Our community has been working for a very long time to protect Browns Canyon, given the tremendous resource that it is both for the local economy and our quality of life," said Eddie Sandoval, owner of the Asian Palate Restaurant in Buena Vista. "I fully support the president using his authority to protect Browns Canyon as a national monument as soon as possible."
AW members, along with members of the local community, will have an opportunity to engage in a dialogue with officials from the Obama administration on this important effort. Stay tuned for more information.
To read the senators' letter, scroll below:
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We write to request that the Administration begin the process of evaluating whether Browns Canyon should be designated as a National Monument by your authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906. Browns Canyon is located on federal land that the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service manage in Chaffee County, Colorado.
We are strong supporters of S. 1794, which is our legislation to make Browns Canyon a National Monument. We are nevertheless interested in exploring other possible avenues to achieve National Monument recognition for this remarkable area. To that end, community leaders in the area have suggested the possibility of you using your authority to achieve the same goal as our bill in Congress.
Our bill would designate nearly 22,000 acres of land on either side of the Arkansas River as a National Monument. This area is a unique natural and economic resource with national significance. Hundreds of thousands of people visit the canyon every year to raft or fish the Gold Medal trout waters of the Arkansas River. The rugged and remote lands to the east feature quiet canyons and rock formations, which provide an outstanding habitat for deer, elk, and bighorn sheep and have sweeping views of the Collegiate Peaks and the Arkansas Valley. The upper Arkansas River is one of the nation's most popular areas for whitewater rafting, generating more than $20 million in direct expenditures and $52.6 million for the local economy. The landscape supports thousands of jobs, from river outfitters and ranchers to the Main Street businesses of Salida and Buena Vista. Research indicates that a National Monument designation would further stimulate the local economy in the near-and long-term.
The current community-based dialogue about how best to protect Browns Canyon began nearly three years ago at the request of local residents and businesses. They asked us to develop a bill after Congress failed to pass any of the previous bipartisan efforts to protect the area. The most notable of these was led by former Representative Joel Hefley and co-sponsored by the entire Colorado delegation in 2006. That bill had a wide base of community support, as S.1794 does today. Over 200 local businesses, many land- and water-based recreation and sportsmen organizations, the Chaffee County Visitors Bureau, the Colorado River Outfitters Association, the Arkansas River Outfitters Association, the Vet Voice Foundation, the Hispanic Access Foundation, and many others support protecting Browns Canyon. The Town of Buena Vista and the City of Salida passed resolutions of support, and a majority of Chaffee County Commissioners support the legislation with its carefully crafted conditions.
S. 1794 received a favorable hearing in the Senate, including support from the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management which stated, "we look forward to its swift passage." While we remain committed to the legislative process, the gridlock in Congress has stymied this proposal and many others. We feel the future economic benefits of a national Monument designation are significant for the region, and we should not allow Congressional gridlock to deprive Colorado of those benefits. Therefore, we believe it is necessary to begin discussing the possibility of a National Monument designation under the Antiquities Act. As part of this process, we hope that Administration officials can visit Chaffee County to hear directly from Coloradans about the future of Browns Canyon and its value to their community.