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Wild Holiday Gift Idea: A National Monument

Photo: Outfitters and recreation enthusiasts continue their fight for national monument status for Browns Canyon. Photo courtesy: Mason Cummings
Photo: Outfitters and recreation enthusiasts continue their fight for national monument status for Browns Canyon. Photo courtesy: Mason Cummings
December 8, 2014

BUENA VISTA, Col. - Browns Canyon has provided the gift of beauty and recreation for centuries - and now outdoor enthusiasts and others want to give the region the protection they believe it deserves. Keith Baker, executive director with the Friends of Browns Canyon, explains why they believe the area deserves national monument status.

"As a part of an overall landscape, as a wildlife habitat, as a unique environment, a lot of us feel it merits a higher degree of protection," says Baker.

Legislation to designate Browns Canyon as a national monument has been introduced in Congress several times by members of both parties, but failed to make any progress. If it was successful, Baker says the region would be eligible for greater protection and federal funding and would gain another avenue to market its recreation to travelers.

Veteran Logan Matheny, a volunteer for Friends of Browns Canyon, has made several trips to Washington to fight for the national monument status. He says since Browns Canyon is a popular destination for people around the world, the state should have financial support in protecting it.

"People come from all over the country and all over the world to Colorado for the recreational opportunities because it is so beautiful and gorgeous here," Matheny says. "As it stands now, Coloradans are the only ones paying for Browns Canyon. "

According to the Colorado River Outfitters Association, commercial rafting in Browns Canyon generates $55 million to the economy annually, but Baker believes the national monument status would offer additional economic growth.

"There are people who visit national parks and visit national monuments, and one of their goals in life is to visit as many of them as they possibly can and so it would put a star on the map to help draw additional people," he says.

Opponents have expressed concerns about grazing rights and access by first responders to fight wildfires. Supporters say a national-monument designation also would ensure people continue to have access to the roads, vehicle river access, mountain bike trails, ATV trails and dirt-bike trails that currently exist.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - CO