Reprinted from The Mountain Mail‘s 12/05/2014 edition.
Guest opinion by Jim Impara
After more than 20 years of discussion, meetings and missed opportunities, the time is right to designate a Browns Canyon National Monument.
Saturday’s meeting in Salida – hosted by the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet – might be the single most important opportunity to get this proposal across the fin- ish line.
Let’s get this done.
Browns Canyon, with its rugged spires, Gold Medal trout waters and backcountry habitat, is a magnificent part of our state’s outdoor heritage and deserves protec- tion, just as other special places in western Colorado have been protected, such as the Colorado Monument,
This is nothing new. Legislation to protect Browns Can- yon has been introduced in Congress by members of both political parties for more than a decade. The most notable of these was led by former Rep. Joel Hefley and co-spon- sored by the entire Colorado delegation in 2006.
Last year, Sen. Udall introduced S. 1794, after nearly a 3-year community-based dialogue about protecting Browns Canyon. The bill received a favorable hearing in the Sen- ate, including support from the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, which urged its swift passage. But S. 1794, like its predecessors, ultimately was a victim of Congressional gridlock.
With Congress in perpetual dysfunction, executive action now looks like the best way to make Browns Can- yon National Monument a reality. That’s not executive overreach – it’s the most common way these places have been established for many decades, by presidents of both parties.
And now the wheels are rolling – Sen. Udall recently sent a letter to the president, requesting designation of Browns Canyon. Forest Service and BLM officials will hold a public meeting from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Salida SteamPlant.
What they’re looking for is evidence of strong local sup- port for a Browns Canyon National Monument. It’s up to us, as sportsmen, business owners and residents of the val- ley, to show up and raise our voices in support of this com- monsense measure.
This is not a controversial issue in the valley. The pro- posal is widely supported both here and across Colo- rado. More than 200 local businesses, many recreation and sportsmen organizations, the Chaffee County Visi- tors 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 a national monument.
They rightly see a Browns monument as a way to bolster our recreation- and tourism-based economy and protect a special place from unforeseen and reckless development.
Browns brings in more than $23 million a year to the Arkansas Valley economy and helps support Colorado’s growing $1.2 billion fishing economy and $500 million hunting economy.
Moreover, a 2011 study of 17 national monuments showed that in every single case, monument designation boosted economic growth in surrounding communities.
A designation will simply protect this natural treasure and existing uses of it – including hiking, fishing, hunting, rafting, camping, horseback riding, mountain biking, graz- ing and wood gathering – for future generations.
So we have nothing to lose and much to gain from a monument designation.
Americans love our public lands and the rich outdoor experiences they provide. We also understand that there are highly valued, iconic wild places that are not yet pro- tected. Browns Canyon is one of those special places. Let’s keep it the way it is.
Please come to Saturday’s meeting and let them know that Browns Canyon is nothing short of monumental.
Jim Impara is vice president of Collegiate Peaks Anglers Chapter of Trout Unlimited.