Browns Canyon

Browns Canyon National Monument became a reality Feb. 19, when President Barack Obama signed a proclamation protecting the area.

1976 After the BLM was left out of the 1964 Wilderness Act, Congress moves to protect wilderness-quality lands managed by the agency with the passing of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. The bill requires the agency to inventory its lands and identify areas with certain characteristics as wilderness study areas, sections of land which Congress is supposed to either designate them as wilderness or open for use as non-wilderness areas. Congress has left many wilderness study areas in bureaucratic limbo.

1979 The BLM identifies 117 areas in Colorado with wilderness potential. Browns Canyon is one of the seven named by the Royal Gorge Field Office, according to records obtained by BLM public affairs officer Denise Adamic. The BLM’s preliminary inventory eventually leads to Browns Canyon becoming a wilderness study area, though the exact date of the designation is unclear.

1991 A wide-ranging House bill introduced by Colorado Republican representatives Wayne Allard and Dan Schaefer seeks to name hundreds of thousands of acres in Colorado as wilderness, including Browns Canyon. The Colorado Wilderness Act of 1991 never makes it out of committee.

1999 Colorado Democrat representative Diana DeGette begins a decade-long-plus attempt to pass the Colorado Wilderness Act. The first iteration of her legislation has 25 co-sponsors but fails to make it to the floor for a vote. Future versions of the bill have far fewer co-sponsors and also fail to make it out of committee. DeGette is still working to pass the legislation. The most recent version of the act included a 19,825-acre wilderness area for Browns Canyon.

2003 Friends of Browns Canyon forms to obtain bipartisan support for getting formal wilderness protection for the area, according to Keith Baker, the group’s current executive director.

2005 Joel Hefley and six other Colorado lawmakers in Congress introduce the Browns Canyon Wilderness Act. Senator Wayne Allard unveils companion legislation in the Senate. The bills fail the next year after the National Rifle Association comes out against the wilderness designation, claiming it will limit hunting in Browns Canyon by closing Turret Road, according to media reports at the time.

2006 The Browns Canyon effort is dealt a setback when Hefley decides not to run for re-election. The candidate Hefley backs as his successor, Jeff Crank, faces off against fellow Republican Doug Lamborn in a bitter primary fight that results in bad blood between the three lawmakers. Lamborn wins the election. Not surprisingly, he does not support Hefley’s pet project to procure wilderness designation for Browns Canyon.

2008 Then-U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar makes an attempt at the Browns Canyon Wilderness Act, but it never makes it past committee. The Colorado Democrat goes on to become Secretary of the Interior during President Barack Obama’s first term in office. Salazar recently announced he will step down from the post by the end of March.

2012 Mark Udall outlines a plan to name portions of the Arkansas River canyon a national monument and designate the surrounding 20,000-acre Browns Canyon area as wilderness. Lamborn’s support is seen as critical for the Browns Canyon movement because his district includes Chaffee County and he heads the influential House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.

January 2013 Udall announces plans to make draft Browns Canyon legislation available to the public. The plan is unveiled in April.

Dec. 10, 2013 Udall introduces Senate legislation to establish Browns Canyon National Monument. Under the S.1794, the national monument spanned 22,000 acres east of Nathrop and would designate 10,500 acres as wilderness. The bill fails to come to a vote before the end of Udall's term.

Dec. 19, 2013 Udall calls on the BLM to "challenge" mining claims in the Arkansas River near his proposed Browns Canyon National Monument. The men who hold the claims insist they're only recreational prospectors.

July 23, 2014 Udall's Browns Canyon bill is considered at a U.S. Senate National Parks Subcommittee hearing, allowing the bill to advance further in the legislative process.

Nov. 25, 2014 After losing his re-election bid to Republican Cory Gardner, Udall asks President Barack Obama to consider using the Antiquities Act to designate Browns Canyon a national monument. Sen. Michael Bennet joins the call for Obama to take executive action.

Dec. 6, 2014 Sens. Udall and Bennet appear next to top land management officials at a public meeting at the Salida SteamPlant. Of the 50 audience members who spoke at the event, most voiced support for the national monument.

Feb. 18, 2015 White House officials report President Barack Obama will use the Antiquities Act to declare Browns Canyon National Monument. The president signs the proclamation the next day, making the designation official.

(1) comment

R. Malcolm Ramsay

Congratulations!!! Remember, enjoy it quietly, peacefully, go for a swim, soak in the knowledge of a treasure protected....

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