Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today praised the decision by President Obama to designate Chimney Rock as a national monument. The president will use his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to make the designation.
"Chimney Rock contains the rare combination of a spectacular geologic formation with extraordinary cultural, historical and archeological significance.
Coloradans have made it clear that those attributes should be matched with national monument status. It will be an extraordinary boost for the region and the state. 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."
Bennet has led efforts in the Senate to designate Chimney Rock a national monument. He has worked closely with local leaders, members of the Colorado congressional delegation and the administration to advance efforts. In 2010, he first introduced a bill in the Senate, cosponsored by Senator Mark Udall, to establish national monument status. Last Congress, the bill passed out of committee and was subsequently blocked on the Senate floor by a minority of senators. Representative Scott Tipton introduced a similar bill that passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support.
In April, Bennet, Udall and Tipton sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to begin a dialogue with the local community to explore all options to give the Chimney Rock archeological site the recognition and protection it deserves, including presidential declaration. The Antiquities Act of 1906 grants the president the authority to proclaim, by executive order, sites of historical significance as national monuments, garnering protection.
Following the letter to the president, Bennet and Tipton joined officials from the U.S. Forest Service in May at a listening session to collect input on the best path forward for designation of the 4,700-acre archeological site. The meeting was attended by Pagosa Springs Mayor Ross Aragon, members of the Archuleta County Board of Commissioners and area tribal leaders from the Southern Ute and Zuni Pueblo tribes, along with about 120 people from around the region.
In July, an economic impact study commissioned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation found that a national monument designation would bring an additional $1.2 million to the local economy every year.
Chimney Rock, located on San Juan National Forest land west of Pagosa Springs in southwest Colorado's Archuleta County, is recognized as perhaps the most significant historical site managed by the entire U.S. Forest Service.