LETTER: Updated Map Shows Arkansas River Included in Browns Canyon Monument

At the May 11, 2015 Chaffee County Commissioners Work Session Mr. Tom Heinlein, BLM Colorado Front Range District Manager, provided an update on Browns Canyon National Monument.

What was not widely reported from this meeting was that Mr. Heinlein said that there was a rough map with monument boundaries accompanying the proclamation and that a change from Senator Udall’s legislation was that land under the Arkansas River itself was included in the monument.

A map dated 2/4/15 on a USFS website appears to be the official boundary map. This map is available as part of a pdf download by selecting the “Monument Q&A’s” link on the http://www.fs.fed.us/visit/browns-canyon-national-monument web page. The map does indicate that the Arkansas River land itself is included in Browns Canyon National Monument where the monument land is on the east and west banks.

This change raises some interesting questions:

1. Who was responsible for including the river land in the monument area in the proclamation and why?

2. Was there any local non-public advocacy for this change?

3. Was a proposal to include the river land in the monument made available for any type of public input before the proclamation was issued?

4. Senator Udall’s bill (and previous wilderness designation efforts) very carefully and explicitly excluded the Arkansas River from the monument both in the legislative map and in the legislative text. Presumably, there were good reasons for this exclusion. One likely possibility was protecting the freedom to operate of the commercial rafting outfitters. One question is what adverse or undesired consequences might arise from now including the river land in the monument?

As one example of the possible consequences of including the river land in the monument the Presidential Proclamation indicates that authorizations or agreements for the cooperative administration of Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area and authorization or reauthorization of commercial recreational services in the monument may [emphasis added] be issued consistent with the care and management of the objects identified for protection by monument designation. Thus, both AHRA cooperative administration and commercial recreational services on the river in the monument are now apparently dependent on discretionary federal national monument management approval.

While the actual impact may or may not be significant there definitely seems to be potential for a significant impact of inclusion of the river land in the monument. You may be interested in encouraging our local journalists to pursue answers to the above questions or pursuing them yourself. Comments, corrections and, especially, answers to the questions are welcome.

Larry Kier,
Buena Vista, CO

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