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09/21/2012

Chimney Rock Receives Much Needed Protection

Chimney Rock spires
Colorado's Chimney Rock is a spectacular rock formation and archaeological site that thousands have fought to protect over the years. Today, we received the great news that this special place has received permanent protection as a National Monument.

Arguably the most important cultural site on our nation's national forests, Chimney Rock has been a spiritually, ecologically, and culturally significant site for more than 1,000 years and remains of great importance to modern Pueblo Indians.

"Chimney Rock itself is one of two striking sandstone spires protruding from atop a majestic butte, 1000 feet above the Piedra River valley, where the ancestors of today's Hopi, Zuni, and other regional tribes raised their crops 1000 years ago," said Lauren Swain, a Resilient Habitats activist with the Sierra Club.

"Each year, over 9000 visitors tour the elaborate complex of dwellings, which were home to over 2000 people from 850 - 1125 A.D."

Also amazing about Chimney Rock? From the Chacoan tribe's Great Pueblo, the full moon can be viewed rising up between the twin rock spires every 18.6 years -- called the Major Lunar Standstill.

Today's designation will ensure for the first time that the houses, ceremonial sites and other Ancestral Puebloan archeological sites that cover the area have clear protections. Until today, the Chimney Rock 4,100-acre archaeological area lacked any protective designation to provide permanent support for and protection of its sites and resources.

"Chimney Rock's spectacular natural setting and its significance as an ancient astronomical 'observatory' make it fascinating to visitors and priceless for present and future archaeological study," said Carol Stansfield, teacher and longtime Colorado Sierra Club member.


Research indicates that outdoor recreation contributes $10 billion annually to Colorado’s economy, supporting over 100,000 jobs. The National Trust for Historic Preservation estimates that national monument designation for Chimney Rock would bring 1.2 million dollars of additional tourist revenue into the area each year.

As my colleague Michael Brune said, "Protecting public lands is good for communities, good for business and good for nature." Americans have repeatedly demonstrated their support for permanent protection of our nation’s most treasured places.

We hope this legacy of protection continues for other natural wonders worthy of national monument status in the U.S.

-- Fran Hunt, Director of the Sierra Club Resilient Habitats Campaign

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