GOLDEN, Colo. — U.S. Sen. Mark Udall is asking for the public’s help in crafting legislation to create a national monument that would include 22,000 acres on both sides of the Arkansas River between Salida and Buena Vista in south-central Colorado — an area renowned for its whitewater rafting.
The Democrat, who held a listening session in Golden on Saturday, said his draft proposal already has received more than 3,000 comments, most of which have been positive. He hopes to introduce the bill sometime this summer.
“The important thing is we’ll have support from the local communities. That alone speaks volumes,” Udall said. “The fact that you have this kind of local support has generally been respected in Congress.”
The Browns Canyon National Monument would continue to be managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service in cooperation with the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife. Udall said the proposal also maintains existing uses, including rafting, hunting, fishing, grazing and motorized access on all designated roads in the area.
Almost half of the national monument — 10,500 acres — would be designated as wilderness.
“I am proposing a new national monument for Browns Canyon so that future generations of Coloradans can enjoy the unique mix of exciting whitewater and wilderness so close to Colorado’s Front Range,” said Udall, adding that preserving the area would create jobs and support the state’s tourism industry.
Meanwhile, Bill Dvorak, an organizer with the National Wildlife Federation and a fishing and rafting guide along the Arkansas River, said designating the area as a national monument would “put a star on the map so more people will become aware of Browns Canyon.
Dvorak said he has spent the last two decades trying to protect the area.