Bennet Testifies in Support of National Monument Designation for Chimney Rock

Says His Bill Will Provide Much-needed Protection, and Much-deserved Recognition, for Chimney Rock

Washington, DC – Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado, today testified before the National Parks Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on a bill he introduced with Congressman John Salazar to establish Chimney Rock Archeological Area as a National Monument.

Flanked by Archuleta County Commissioner Bob Moomaw, who also testified at today’s hearing, Bennet cited the site’s incredible historical and cultural significance, a broad-based coalition of support, and potential opportunities for economic development and job creation as reasons to support his legislation and designate Chimney Rock as a National Monument.

“Chimney Rock has incredible historical and cultural significance.  Yet the site lacks a designation equal to that stature,” said Bennet.  “This legislation will provide much-needed protection, and much-deserved recognition, for the site.”

Chimney Rock is located West of Pagosa Springs in Colorado’s Archuleta County.  The bill will designate 4,726 acres surrounding Chimney Rock Archeological Area as a National Monument to preserve, protect, and restore the nationally significant archeological, cultural, scientific, watershed and scenic resources.  Chimney Rock will remain a unit of the San Juan National Forest, and Native American tribes will retain access to the sites for traditional and cultural uses.  

U.S. Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, Chairman of the National Parks Subcommittee and original cosponsor of the legislation, chaired the hearing.

Below is the full text of Bennet’s testimony, as prepared for delivery:

Chairman Udall, Ranking Member Burr, I thank you for the opportunity to testify at today’s hearing on the Chimney Rock National Monument Act of 2010.

I introduced this legislation earlier this month.  Chairman Udall, I want to extend a special thanks to you for joining me as an original cosponsor.  

I also want to recognize Commissioner Bob Moomaw.  Bob is sitting behind me and you’ll hear from him later.  

Commissioner Moomaw is a County Commissioner from Archuleta County, Colorado – where Chimney Rock is located.

Bob, along with his two fellow Archuleta County Commissioners, penned a letter to me earlier this year expressing strong support for this legislation to designate Chimney Rock a National Monument.

Bob, I know you’re a busy guy, and I want to express my sincere thanks for taking the time to testify in support of this legislation.  

I am here today to testify in support of S. 3303, The Chimney Rock National Monument Act of 2010.

Chimney Rock is located roughly 20 miles west of Pagosa Springs – in the southwest part of my home state of Colorado.  

This 4,700 acre site is located on San Juan National Forest land and is recognized as perhaps the most significant historical site managed by the entire US Forest Service.

The twin spires of Chimney Rock – depicted in the photo beside me – attracted the ancestors of the modern Pueblo Indians to this area nearly a thousand years ago.  

This unique culture had their main settlement in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, and had a settlement at what is now Mesa Verde National Park near Cortez, Colorado.

The Chaco People established a remote outpost at the base of Chimney Rock called The Great House Pueblo.  The Great House is situated just south of the twin spires and also shown beside me.

The House was built from six million stones, 5,000 logs and 25,000 tons of earth and clay.  All of these materials were arduously hauled 1,000 feet up from the valley floor.  

We think they established this outpost to observe a rare lunar event.  A so-called “major lunar standstill,” occurs once every 18.6 years when the moon appears to rise in the exact same spot three nights in a row.  

The Chaco People built the Great House Pueblo to observe this spectacular celestial event.  There are only two other places in the world where archeologists have found evidence that ancient people used stone structures to mark a lunar standstill.  Stonehenge is one of them.

Chimney Rock has incredible historical and cultural significance.  Yet the site lacks a designation equal to that stature.  This discrepancy is why countless preservation groups got involved with Chimney Rock.

This constituency, coupled with a bipartisan group of local officials, local Colorado counties, municipalities and tribes have joined in an effort to give Chimney Rock the proper designation.

They came together and asked me to carry legislation to designate Chimney Rock a National Monument.  Well, I was happy to answer that call.  This legislation will provide much-needed protection, and much-deserved recognition, for the site.

Passage of this bill will also provide increased tourism and economic development in southwest Colorado, something I know Commissioner Moomaw plans to talk more about.

The measure was drafted with the help of the US Forest Service, the Archuleta County Commissioners, the Pagosa Springs Town Council, historic preservation groups, and Native American Tribes in the region.

Through this robust stakeholder process, we’ve written a commonsense piece of legislation for this important archeological treasure.  I would draw the Committee’s attention to a number of letters I brought with me today that support the overall effort.

Here I have letters of support from:

•    A bipartisan group of Archuleta County Commissioners – where Commissioner Moomaw serves.

•    The Mayor and Town Council of Pagosa Springs, Colorado – the town nearest to Chimney Rock.

•    And a wide variety of historical preservation groups from Colorado and across the Country.

I’d like to submit these letters into the record to illustrate the broad level of local support for this popular legislation.

My staff and I stand ready to work with the members of the committee, and the Administration, to address any concerns that arise with the legislation as drafted.

It is my hope that we can work collaboratively to improve and strengthen the legislation.  It is then my hope that the Committee will support the bill and favorably report it out for consideration by the Full Senate.

Thank you Chairman Udall and Senator Burr for allowing me the opportunity to testify on behalf of this measure.