Bill would Provide Much-needed Protection and Much-deserved Recognition
Washington, DC – A Senate subcommittee held a hearing today on Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet’s bill to establish Chimney Rock Archeological Area as a National Monument. Bennet submitted testimony in support of his bill to the National Parks Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which is chaired by Colorado Senator Mark Udall, who is an original cosponsor of the bill.
“Chimney Rock has incredible historical and cultural significance.” Bennet wrote in his testimony. “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. Passage of this bill will also provide increased tourism and economic development in southwest Colorado.”
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.
The Board of Archuleta County Commissioners, the Town of Pagosa Springs, the Pagosa Springs Chamber of Commerce and the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation sent letters in support of this bill.
Last Congress, a version of the bill was passed in committee with bipartisan support.
For a letter of support from the Board of Archuleta County Commissioners, click here.
For a letter of support from the Town of Pagosa Springs, click here.
For a letter of support from the Pagosa Springs Chamber of Commerce, click here.
For a letter of support from the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation, click here.
The full text of Bennet’s submitted testimony is included below.
Chairman Udall, Ranking Member Burr, I thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony on S. 508, the Chimney Rock National Monument Establishment Act. As you know, I introduced this legislation last Congress and it was favorably reported out of this committee on July 21, 2010.
Unfortunately the full Senate was not able to consider this legislation in the 111th Congress, but I am hopeful and optimistic that we’ll be able to pass this popular bill into law this time around.
I introduced this legislation in the 112th Congress this past March. Chairman Udall, I want to extend a special thanks to you for joining me as an original cosponsor.
I write today to express my strong support for S. 508, the Chimney Rock National Monument Establishment Act. The parcel of land in question is the Chimney Rock Archeological Area, 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 by archeologists the world over as perhaps the most significant historical site managed by the entire US Forest Service.
The twin spires of Chimney Rock 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. 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, one of the many reasons the legislation enjoys broad support from the local city and county governments.
This bill 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’d like to submit for the record today:
- A letter of support from the Archuleta County Commissioners from Archuleta County, Colorado, dated February 4, 2011
- The Pagosa Springs Area Chamber of Commerce
These letters are in addition to several other support letters from local governments and historical preservation groups submitted to the Committee when this legislation received a hearing in the 111th Congress.
The bill is largely the same as it was last Congress, though I have made small changes to reflect recommendations from your Committee and stakeholders in Colorado.
One particular change I would draw the Committee’s attention to is contained in section 4(h) of the legislation where we outline the designation of a Manager for the Monument. This clarifies my legislative language from last Congress to clarify that the Monument Manager at Chimney Rock is not precluded from fulfilling other obligations within the San Juan National Forest.
The people of southwest Colorado deserve to have a dedicated Manager to be the steward of this remarkable archeological treasure.
I know the Forest Service sought this clarification when they testified on the bill last year and I now understand they’re supportive of the concept of a dedicated Manager, provided that Manager can fulfill other duties on the Forest.
My staff and I stand ready to work with the members of the committee, and the Administration, to address the Manager provision as well as any other 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 once again favorably report it out for consideration by the Full Senate.
Thank you again Chairman Udall and Senator Burr for allowing me the opportunity to submit testimony on behalf of this measure.