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Legislation Advances to Protect Colorado’s Browns Canyon

This month, The Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness Act -- sponsored by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall -- was approved by the Senate National Parks Subcommittee.

The bill, which Sen. Udall proposed last year, highlights what Coloradans see as an important priority -- maintaining the legacy and beauty of our natural spaces so they may be enjoyed well into the future. The bill would protect existing legal uses of the land and ban future mining on the riverbeds, thereby protecting the river’s water supply.

The Arkansas River runs through Browns Canyon, making the region a haven for whitewater rafting, fishing, and many other kinds of recreation. The region also supports local agriculture and tourism industries.

Another step closer to earning National Monument recognition, the proposal would protect 22,000 acres of public land from future development and 10,500 acres of designated wilderness. The bill now moves on to the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

A recent poll by Conservation Colorado indicates that 77 percent of Colorado residents support the monument designation proposition. Summit Daily reports that conservationists, locals in Chaffee County, and business owners are enthusiastic about the environmental, economic, and recreational opportunities for Browns Canyon posed by this bill. In a piece for the Denver Post, Joseito Velasquez and Rigo Magaña -- representing Hispanic and religious communities in Colorado -- praised the bill and called upon the Senate to keep “encouraging stewardship of our outdoor and cultural heritage.”

“I’ve spent 18 months developing this bill side by side with Chaffee County residents and other stakeholders. I’ve held public meetings, received thousands of written comments, and my staff and I conducted over 50 meetings,” Sen. Udall said in a hearing as the Chairman of the National Parks Subcommittee. “The resulting bill is emblematic of how public lands bills should be done: from bottom up, based on what the community wants.”


---Stephanie Steinbrecher, Sierra Club Media Team

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