Chimney Rock Designation Receives Praise
by Watch Staff
Sep 27, 2012 | 1258 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ANNOUNCEMENT DAY - U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) joined local dignitaries on Sept. 21 in praising the designation of the nation's newest National Monument, Chimney Rock, in Archuleta County, west of Pagosa Springs. (Courtesy photo)
ANNOUNCEMENT DAY - U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) joined local dignitaries on Sept. 21 in praising the designation of the nation's newest National Monument, Chimney Rock, in Archuleta County, west of Pagosa Springs. (Courtesy photo)

TELLURIDE – U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) praised President Barack Obama’s designation of Chimney Rock as a national monument last week.

“Chimney Rock contains the rare combination of a spectacular geologic formation with extraordinary cultural, historical and archeological significance,” Bennet said, of the President’s designation.

“Coloradans have made it clear that those attributes should be matched with national monument status.”

Chimney Rock, located on San Juan National Forest land west of Pagosa Springs in Archuleta County, is recognized as perhaps the most significant historical site managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

As the nation’s newest national monument, Chimney Rock represents one of the furthest outposts of the Chacoan culture. Home to more than 200 homes and ceremonial buildings, built over 1,000 years ago, the area is of great spiritual importance to the Pueblo tribes of the American Southwest.

“It will be an extraordinary boost for the region and the state,” said Bennet. “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 [of 1906].

“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.”

The designation, announced on Sept. 21, provides permanent protection to the 4,700-acre Chimney Rock Archaeological Area.

Bennet led efforts in the Senate to designate Chimney Rock a national monument, and worked closely with local leaders, members of the Colorado congressional delegation and the administration to advance the efforts. In 2010, he first introduced a bill in the Senate, cosponsored by Senator Mark Udall, to establish national monument status. In the 2011 Congress, the bill passed out of committee, but 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 of this year, Bennet, Udall and Tipton sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to begin a dialogue with the local community to explore all options for according the Chimney Rock archeological site the recognition and protection it deserves, including the presidential declaration. The Antiquities Act of 1906 grants the President the authority to proclaim, by executive order, sites of historical significance as national monuments, to guaranteeing them protection.

Following their 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 archaeological site. The meeting was attended by Pagosa Springs Mayor Ross Aragon, members of the Archuleta Board of County Commissioners and area tribal leaders from the Southern Ute and Zuni Pueblo tribes, along with about 120 people from around the region.

“Chimney Rock is almost certainly the most significant cultural site managed by the U.S. Forest Service,” said Richard Moe, former San Miguel County part-time resident and president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Moe began the effort for monument designation six years ago, and has continued those efforts as a boardmember of the Conservation Lands Foundation. “The national monument designation will bring deserved national recognition to a place of significant archaeological and cultural importance to our country.”

An independent economic study released this summer indicated that the national monument designation would add economic benefits to both the local and regional economy.

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