Let the celebration begin.

The proverbial ribbon cutting to officially designate Browns Canyon as a national monument takes place in Buena Vista this Saturday.

The speeches by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and other dignitaries will officially cap off decades of grassroots efforts to protect Browns Canyon for posterity.

National monument and wilderness area protection means no corporate developers, resource pillagers and managers with no ties to the area can come in and destroy the lifeblood of the community, the county and the Upper Arkansas Valley.

While some local politicians have said “they don’t see a need for it,” and other politicians have opposed it to apparently just oppose it, the permanent protection is vital.

One need look no further than neighboring states like Utah and Montana to see efforts to privatize public land. Thinly veiled excuses like local control will most certainly open avenues for corporate exploiters to post no-trespassing signs on what was once public lands.

Everyone who hunts and fishes, mountain bikes and hikes, rides an OHV or jeeps on public lands has an interest at stake in preserving and protecting access.

Permanent protection for the Browns Canyon area and river guarantees future generations the same opportunities we enjoy today.

Yes, rafting companies will benefit from the status as a national monument, and so will their sales-tax paying employees and visitors who spend money in town on lodging, meals, equipment, incidentals, gas, recreation and entertainment.

No other local industry can say that to the tune of tens of millions of dollars a year, year after year.

Those folks who forged an idea back in the 1970s and ‘80s to propose permanent protection status for Browns Canyon had a vision. That vision was carried forward by members of both political parties over the years and by stewards of public lands who fought for permanent protection year after year after year.

Their fight was not a lone one, but rather one echoed across Colorado, the most beautiful and spectacular of all our 50 states.

Dozens of areas in our state – including four national parks, eight national monuments, two national recreation areas, two national historic sites, four national historic trails, two national scenic trails, 11 national forests, two national grasslands, 42 wilderness areas, two national conservation areas, eight national wildlife refuges, 28 federally designated national recreation trails and other public lands managed by federal agencies – are now protected for residents and visitors alike for generations to come.

Saturday at the town’s soccer fields, we will honor the men and women who have pushed the effort forward with grit, determination, perseverance, a few dollars out of their own wallets and a keen vision that forged a legacy that will long outlast their time on earth.

Let the celebration begin indeed.

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