Chimney Rock gains monument status
President Barack Obama today is to designate as a national monument 4,700 acres containing a dramatic rock formation and the remains of an ancient settlement in southwest Colorado.
The Chimney Rock Archaeological Area will become a national monument with Obama’s signature. The Antiquities Act of 1906 allows presidents to designate as monument areas of scientific, archaeological or geological importance. Obama has set aside two areas already under the act.
Obama’s executive action comes as a bill to give the area monument status stalled in the Democrat-controlled Senate after a bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., passed the Republican-controlled House.
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who introduced the measure in the Senate, said Thursday he was pleased the president had intervened, noting that he had recently urged the president to act.
The Senate has taken no action on the bill, but Bennet did note in a statement that “a small minority of senators” had prevented passage of a similar measure in the previous Congress.
This year, the measure failed to survive a committee vote.
“For the last three years we’ve been making that case to Congress and more recently we’ve been urging the administration to use its authority under the Antiquities Act,” Bennet said. “The president’s establishment of Chimney Rock National Monument will preserve and protect the site and drive tourism, drawing more visitors to the region and the state and bringing more dollars into the local economy.”
Tipton said he would have preferred that a measure pass Congress after “extensive community input.”
Chimney Rock, however, deserves recognition, Tipton said.
“Ultimately, I’m pleased to see a Chimney Rock National Monument becoming a reality,” Tipton said.
Legislation fell victim to politics, Bennet said in a statement about the path that stopped in the Senate.
“This announcement has been years in the making,” Bennet said.
“The local community — which broadly supports national monument status — put their blood, sweat, and tears into this, but partisan gridlock and political dysfunction continued to stymie their efforts. That’s why we finally stepped in and joined the community in asking for the president’s help,” Bennet said.
Business organizations in the Pagosa Springs area were united in seeking the designation and environmental organizations cheered it as well.
“We applaud President Obama designating Chimney Rock as a national monument,” Elise Jones, executive director of the Colorado Environmental Coalition, said in a statement. “Chimney Rock’s rich past is important to the Pueblos and other tribes across the southwest and making this area a national monument will serve to increase awareness of the special culture and history of southwest Colorado.”
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, were scheduled to announce the designation today at Chimney Rock.