ProgressNow, others ask Obama to protect Colorado lands

DENVER – ProgressNow Colorado and allies in the Monumental West campaign today presented President Barack Obama’s campaign field office in Denver with hundreds of Colorado signatures to a letter requesting he support the protection of Browns Canyon and Chimney Rock.

“Coloradans value these areas as economic drivers for the region and also sacred areas to explore nature and archaeology and to preserve for future generations,” said state Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Niwot. “In Colorado, more than 107,000 jobs depend on public lands and 97 percent of Coloradans believe public lands are essential to our way of life.”

ProgressNow Colorado political director Alan Franklin, Colorado Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst and naturalist Aron Ralston deliver signatures to the Organizing for America office in Denver. (Image: Emily Andrews, ProgressNow Colorado)

A recent study shows that national parks in Colorado account for about $300 million in annual spending and provide thousands of jobs for Coloradans.

“Browns Canyon is a spectacular recreational and natural area which provides outstanding fish and wildlife habitat as well as four-season opportunities for people to explore the outdoors and experience the area’s scenery and solitude,” said Joanne Kron, executive director of ProgressNow Colorado. “Browns Canyon is also one of Colorado and America’s favorite whitewater rafting destinations. It’s a national treasure that deserves to be permanently protected to both ensure that the area will remain open to hunting, fishing, and rafting and to preserve Colorado’s outdoor legacy for future generations.”

Chimney Rock is a San Juan National Forest Archaeological Area located in Colorado between Durango and Pagosa Springs and managed for archaeological protection, public interpretation, and education.

Pagosa Springs Mayor Ross Aragon told The Colorado Independent previously that he supports the measure wholeheartedly. He said he wants to see the area’s history preserved and that he thinks being designated a national monument would help to drive tourism.

“It will be great for economic development,” he said. Aragon, who has been mayor since 1978, said he does not know of anyone opposed to the monument designation. “I don’t know of any opposition and in this day and age, that is really surprising, but I can’t think of any reason anyone would be opposed.”

“These sites attract visitors from all over the nation and the world. With the added visibility that national monument status would bring, Chimney Rock would increase heritage tourism in Archuleta County and in the Four Corners region,” Kron said in a press release. “Chimney Rock has incredible historical and cultural significance. Yet the site lacks a designation equal to that stature.”

Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall and Representative Scott Tipton have introduced legislation to provide protection and recognition for the site.

“A national monument designation would put a star on the map, drawing more visitors to the area’s world-class river rafting and outdoor recreating activities and support our local tourism economy,” Udall said when discussing the bill with locals and reporters earlier this year.

“Put simply, a National Monument designation is warranted for Chimney Rock and that new designation will drive economic development and job creation throughout the region,” Kron said.

“Voters agree, in a recent bipartisan poll, nearly 8 in 10 Westerners said we can protect our land and water and have a strong economy and good jobs,” said Aron Ralston. “The time to act is now. The West is counting on you, President Obama.”

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.