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    Browns Canyon National Monument Bill

    by Former Senator Mark Udall

    Posted on 2014-12-12

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    UDALL of Colorado. Madam President, I submit this statement for the Record to clarify several provisions in my Browns Canyon national monument and wilderness bill, S. 1794. I have asked President Obama to use this bill as the model for a designation of 22,000 acres of Browns Canyon as a national monument under the Antiquities Act because it contains many specific provisions that were developed in careful consultation with the community.

    I introduced my bill over a year ago after 18 months of working side- by-side with Chaffee County residents and other stakeholders. I held public listening sessions, received thousands of written comments, and my staff and I conducted over 50 meetings. The resulting bill was emblematic of how public lands bills should be done: from the bottom up and based on what the community wants.

    Browns Canyon is a unique natural resource. Hundreds of thousands of visitors come to Browns Canyon year after year to raft or kayak the canyon's exciting whitewater rapids or to fish the Gold Medal trout waters of the Arkansas River. But there is a lot more to this landscape than just the river. The rugged and remote lands to the east feature quiet canyons and rock formations, outstanding habitat for bighorn sheep and elk, and sweeping views of the Collegiate Peaks and Arkansas Valley.

    Protecting Browns Canyon has a wide base of support, including more than 200 local businesses and sportsmen who welcome the area's Gold Medal trout waters and big game hunting opportunities. Both the town of Buena Vista and the city of Salida passed resolutions of support, and a majority of the Chaffee County commissioners support the proposal with its carefully crafted conditions. The Denver Post and local Salida Mountain Mail have editorialized in favor of an Executive action. Indeed, I hosted a public meeting in Salida last weekend--attended by senior State and Federal officials, including U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell and Bureau of Land Management Deputy Director Steve Ellis--to gauge public support for protecting this nationally significant landmark. The more than 500 attendees at the standing-room-only meeting overwhelmingly endorsed the idea, noting how a national monument designation would boost the local economy, support Main Street businesses and help protect Colorado's special way of life.

    The intent of my Browns Canyon national monument bill is to preserve this special place just as it is now--for us and future generations. Therefore, I submit this statement to clarify the intent behind several key passages related to the role of the State of Colorado, water rights, and livestock grazing.

    First, I want to recognize the model partnership between the Bureau of Land Management and the State of Colorado that has been in place since 1989 to manage the 148 miles of the Arkansas River corridor. This partnership is known as the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, AHRA, and includes Browns Canyon. The intent is that the Browns Canyon National Monument will have no impact on this partnership. However, it is also the intent that the Federal agencies will closely consult with the State of Colorado on the development of a comprehensive management plan for the national monument, and that the State could be a cosignatory to the plan. The State of Colorado has interests beyond just the AHRA because it will manage the wildlife in the National Monument and has a stake in maintaining the economic viability of associated industries, such as outdoor recreation and agriculture.

    Second, the intent is that the Browns Canyon National Monument shall not have any impact on the existing water rights of any party. It is also the intent that the national monument will not have any effect on how river flows are managed and administered, such as the current Voluntary Flow Management Program in place for the Arkansas River.

    Finally, as I have stated previously before the National Parks Subcommittee, it is critical that local ranchers maintain flexibility to run livestock in the national monument and transfer their grazing allotments to future generations. To address this, I included legislative language that all existing laws continue to apply just as they did before the monument was designated. Colorado's farms and ranches are an important part of my State's economy and identity--and produce food and fiber for the world. In particular, cattlemen and women play a critical role in the economy, culture, and heritage of the Arkansas River Valley. Therefore, Browns Canyon National Monument must support that industry and educate visitors about its role.

    Browns Canyon National Monument is an idea whose time has come, and I am proud to have led this most recent effort in a 20-year campaign to protect this spectacular and nationally significant resource.


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