3:03 pm - Sunday August 20, 2017

Browns Canyon National Monument Public Forum Saturday

Colorado soon could have a new national monument.

The latest chapter in the grassroots effort to protect Browns Canyon is getting a boost from Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who is proposing national monument status for a stretch of the Arkansas River between Salida and Buena Vista.

The attempt to balance the needs of all recreation users has been going on for 12 years. Ryan Bidwell, the Wilderness Society’s national monument campaign director, said the canyon is being used in a way that balances sports, wilderness and ranching needs.

“This is a really pretty iconic recreation landscape,” he said. “That’s actually one of the reasons why we want to preserve the canyon, to keep it exactly the way it is for future generations.”

Udall agreed, saying he wants to keep the canyon’s usage the same, even with national monument and wilderness designations. Udall is to hold meetings Saturday in Nathrop and May 18 on the Front Range.

John Gale, a regional. representative for the National Wildlife Federation, said he’s impressed by the involvement of stakeholders in this process so far.

The plan includes primitive and more developed areas of the canyon, which includes one of the last wild sections of the Arkansas River.

“It goes through this rugged canyon that’s just spectacular, and the trout fishery there is amazing,” Gale said. “Anglers from all around the world will spend their time hiking back into the canyon and plying those waters in hopes for the catch of a lifetime.”

The Wilderness Society says that makes the river one of the big economic drivers of the region, with more than $20 million in annual revenue from whitewater recreation alone.

The bill could be introduced as early as June. Udall’s proposal is online at markudall.senate.gov.

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