Southwest Coloradans Tell Bennet, U.S. Forest Service Officials They Are Behind National Monument Designation for Chimney Rock

Locals Back Both Legislative and Executive Paths for Designation

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and officials from the U.S. Forest Service heard numerous southwest Coloradans express overwhelming support for national monument designation for Chimney Rock today at a public listening session convened by the U.S. Forest Service. The meeting was intended to collect local input on the best path forward for designation for the 4,700-acre archeological site, which can be done by an act of Congress or by presidential proclamation.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, Pagosa Springs Mayor Ross Aragon, members of the Archuleta County Board of Commissioners and area tribal leaders from the Southern Ute and Zuni Pueblo tribes were among the stakeholders also in attendance at the meeting, which drew about 120 people from around the region.

“The clear message from the local community is that they just want this done—whether through legislation or through presidential proclamation, they want to see this site get the protection and recognition it deserves” Bennet said.  “I’m grateful for all the comments we heard, and I look forward to continuing to work with the U.S. Forest Service and in the Senate so we can get this done for Southwest Colorado.

Department of Interior officials will now review the comments collected at the meeting to help determine the next step forward.

The listening session comes following a letter sent by Bennet, Tipton and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall to President Obama, asking him to begin a dialogue with the local community to explore all options to give the Chimney Rock archeological site the recognition and protection it deserves, including presidential declaration. The Antiquities Act of 1906 grants the president the authority to proclaim, by executive order, sites of historical significance as national monuments, garnering protection.

Bennet has also introduced a bill in the Senate, cosponsored by U.S. Senator Mark Udall, to establish Chimney Rock as a national monument. Tipton has introduced a similar bill in the House of Representatives. Both bills have received committee hearings. Last Congress, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources passed Bennet’s bill with broad bipartisan support. Last week, Tipton’s bill passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee with broad bipartisan support.

Chimney Rock, located on San Juan National Forest land west of Pagosa Springs in southwest Colorado’s Archuleta County, is recognized as perhaps the most significant historical site managed by the entire U.S. Forest Service.